Hojicha

Hojicha is such a warm and inviting tea. I should note that for the first time since I’ve been coming to the tea shop, it was packed and there were no thermometers available for gauging the heat, which I’ve noted before was so vital for making tea in a mindful way. But was it over scientific? In my readings, an example of an early tea manuscript described the different stages of the heat of the water by surface characteristics: waiting until it is in a displaced motion of waves, and not gauging it through modern devices. It’s possible, and maybe the real connection of making tea would be more like this: a union of visual cues and the natural state of water as it changes.

Hojicha has a definite charcoal flavor. It feels carefully roasted, with a nutty aftertaste, and a beginning taste phase which really feels like one of the most heartwarming green teas I can imagine. I imagine it’s color as brown and black, and in the notes for the tea at the tea shop they mention that it is a “satisfying replacement for a morning cup of coffee.” That is absolutely believable. It’s a green tea that feels both like a green tea, and with a taste of coffee. You can feel the taste of walnut very strongly. While other green teas suggest the waves of wind through grasslands; of a series of smooth motions over the surface, with a definite vegetal glow, Hojicha is the taste of the wood, the trunk of the tree, the soil and shafts. It is like being in a dense forest with high trees and focused canopies. The green tea reminder of the taste yields the sensation of seaweed, washed upon a wooded shore. I can feel this will be a tea I return to often when I want to experience those particular effects.

Both coffee and tea were, at the beginning of the first millenium, used for religious purposes. Coffee came from Sufi mystics, and tea was developed by the monastic community. It’s an inspiring thought, but I’m not sure that it’s all that remarkable. Probably monks and seekers were the only equivalents to researchers and scientists at that time.

If this observation emphasizes the delicate nature of thoughtful investigation, the reality of Hojicha is more a forceful state of nature itself. It presents itself clear of metaphors. It is assertive. It is the natural world in one of it’s most solid forms, the root and trunk of an endless series of trees, through which we open upon on a clearing, and rest as light breaks through the high canopy of the leaves. Yet because of the late effects of the familiar green tea, it almost feels like this forest could be among the coral reefs, or deep in the ocean.

I have a very clear memory of being with some friends in a redwood clearing, with bark covering the soil underneath them. I don’t remember who did it first, but we all laid down and looked up toward the sky. That is the same effect as the tea. I felt so warm and happy after trying it. I asked the tea shop why this was, to which they replied, “maybe a placebo?” I think it’s more than that. Tea is more than its parts. It is a truly amazing thing, and I can’t wait to explore more.

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