Generations of Hojicha Specialty
At Maruyoshi, our sustained tradition of pure quality hojicha relies on skills and expertise that have long been passed down and accumulated. Since our foundation in 1902, we have been producing hojicha with advanced techniques handed down over four generations. While modernization has given us machines with greatly improved tea-making capabilities, our traditional techniques of selecting ingredients and roasting are preserved even to this day. By introducing traditional techniques to modern methods and vice versa, we have the ability to produce an infinite variety of hojicha teas.
Maruyoshi is virtually the only Japanese retailer and wholesaler specialized in hojicha. As a locally based wholesaler, our network of contracted farmers adds up to about 125 acres of farm land. We purchase about 30% of the total production volume from these farms, allowing us to select the ideal tea leaves for hojicha. Regulations designed to preserve Lake Biwa’s water quality in Shiga Prefecture (formerly Omi Province) also ensure that the tea leaves grown here are cultivated with environmentally-friendly methods.
Blending from such distinctive local tea leaves, Maruyoshi creates a diverse variety of hojicha teas. Beyond the standard qualities of hojicha like its roasted aroma, we produce hojicha teas that feature floral or fruity aromas or deep and rich flavor. Embracing traditional methods and techniques in our tea selection and roasting, we produce delicious, quality hojicha for your enjoyment.
Our Partnered Farms for Organic Tea Leaves
Maruyoshi currently holds contracts with five tea farmers in the Tsuchiyama area. These partners are some of the region’s most committed members devoted to making top-quality tea while preserving local tea industry traditions. Currently, 3 of our 125 total contracted acres of farm land grow tea leaves purely organically. The organic farms are located separately from the others, and apply special growing methods such as carefully maintaining soil quality and cultivating with environmentally friendly methods. This is all to achieve the utmost quality, even by organic standards. These five farms work together closely, sometimes even in competition, in the ongoing pursuit of quality improvement, to eventually expanding organic production throughout the area.
Unparalleled Mastery of Tea Selection
Our hojicha ingredients are of the finest quality, carefully selected by Kenji Yoshinaga, the president of Maruyoshi as well as a tea master of the highest rank, a 10th grade Chashi Tea Master. This rank is currently awarded to only 15 masters in Japan, and among this elite group of 15, Kenji Yoshinaga is the only one specialized in hojicha tea.
In addition, we also work together with other high-ranking chashi masters, certified Japanese tea instructors, and tea sommeliers.
10th Grade Chashi Tea Master (茶師十段, or chashi jyu-dan)
Chashi refers to a tea-blending artisan. Ranked grades are awarded through an annual competition which tests expertise of Japanese tea masters based on criteria including cultivar identification, picking season, and recognizing the place of origin strictly by appearance and by taste. Total points earned determine one’s grade, with 10th being the highest grade. Unlike other pass-fail style tea certifications, someone who has developed keen senses in observing, smelling and tasting, as well as extensive knowledge about any single Japanese tea can achieve the highest grade of this examination.
Roasting is the most important process in making hojicha. Envisioning the end result, we conduct our roasting with precise adjustments according to conditions such as air temperature, humidity, etc.
After steaming, the tea leaves will undergo roasting, which is the most important process in making hojicha. However, the water content is not evenly distributed between the surface and inner areas of freshly harvested and steamed tea leaves. This can result in tea with a harsh or bitter taste so before roasting, we first leave the steamed leaves in a cool, dark place, allowing the moisture to evenly distribute.
Our roasting process also involves one of two methods, either low-heat or high-heat roasting. We carefully determine the best roasting conditions according to the water content of the leaves. In low-heat roasting, tea develops a deep rich aroma while retaining the fresh flavor of green tea with a hint of umami and bitterness. High-heat roasting, on the other hand, produces tea with a clear, smooth aroma and a refreshing aftertaste. Additionally, we make use of both light and deep roasting processes to craft a variety of hocjiha flavors and aromas.
Clean, fresh aroma and full-bodied flavor are the core essence of hojicha. To bring out these qualities, the utmost expertise in roasting is essential. The smoke removal process is particularly crucial as it can decide the final taste and aroma of hojicha. If too much is drained, the aroma and flavor of the tea become flat. But on the other hand, not enough smoke is drained, then it becomes overly smoky. Achieving the right balance between the smoky roasted aroma and the natural green tea flavor requires careful observation during the process. Taste, fragrance and color are all meticulously monitored. Aside from roasting, great skill is also needed in ingredient selection techniques, ability to predict the end product, and in proper cooling, all of which are essential for making good, quality hojicha.