The Hojicha Tea Revolution


I suppose it’s not exactly correct to call it a ‘hojicha tea revolution,’ especially since hojicha is certainly not new in Japan. It’s been around for a long time, most likely since the early 20th century. But its tasty, roasted and toasted flavor is now being paired with some surprising foods.
Photo credit: Susan Gavin©

Before a recent trip to Japan, I ordered a matcha soft-serve ice cream cone at a local Japanese market.  The clerk asked if I wanted the matcha/hojicha swirl, and I was taken aback… “Hojicha? The tea?” I thought to myself, doubtful of the pairing. I decided to give it a try. The hojicha flavor was so successful, so delicious as an ice cream flavor, that I’ve been back for more- but I order full hojicha. No more swirls.
Photo credit: Susan Gavin ©
 Tea drinkers have known about matcha for a long time. But just as matcha seems to be breaking into the mainstream in the United States, hojicha is emerging in new ways in Japan. So keeping that delicious hojicha cone in mind, I kept my eyes open after arriving in Japan this spring. I had success at a 7-11 in Osaka; Häagen-Dazs had introduced a limited-edition Hojicha Latte ice cream flavor, and a local shop carried it. It appeared to be a spring flavor; by June, I couldn't find any in the shops. However, I did spot another brand at a train station kiosk in Kyoto, so it’s worth checking out the kiosk freezers while you’re traveling.
Recommendation: 4/5
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7-11 proved to be the mother lode. At a 7-11 Premium shop in Saitama, I found a bag of “Hojicha Crunch Choco,” small chocolatey bites with a hojicha flavor. The small size was perfect and the hojicha taste blended well with the chocolate.
Recommendation: 5/5
Photo credit: Susan Gavin©

Next up was my favorite waffle sandwich cookie, a popular souvenir item found at train stations and airports in Japan. I’ve seen the cookies with vanilla cream filling and with matcha cream filling, but this time I found them with hojicha cream filling at the Kyoto train station. It's a new taste worth sampling.
Recommendation: 2/5
Photo credit: Susan Gavin©

The last fascinating treat was found at the Ginza Six mall in Tokyo. The shop featured specialties from the various prefectures in Japan, and had hojicha cappuccino from Kyoto. The packets came pre-sweetened with sugar and milk powder, and had an undeniable hojicha taste. These were unusual, but had an intriguing, darker flavor.
Recommendation: 4/5
I’ve seen hojicha Kit Kats and heard that hojicha cookies, cakes, and nama choco sweets can be found as well. Happy hunting!

Susan Gavin