I have to admit. I am not a big fan of houjicha, and it is exactly what this tea from Kochi prefecture is. I bought it because its packaging stood out in a row of packaged teas at the souvenir store in Kochi train station. Talk about effective marketing through packaging? Haha.
Tosa Aburicha (土佐炙り茶) is an exclusive, not sure if it is registered trademark, name for surface-roasted tea from Kochi (its old provincial name was Tosa). Specifically from the Niyodogawa area.
With its source from Mt Ishizuchi in the neighbouring prefecture of Ehime, Niyodogawa flows through Kochi to the Pacific Ocean. Its water is famed for being crystal clear, at times taking on a shade of blue that earns the name “Niyodo blue”.
The Tosa Aburicha I bought is produced under JA Cosmos Agricultural Cooperative, which is formed with local residents in Niyodogawa area. It differs from some other houjicha that are made of bancha, instead it is made of sencha mostly, although I did spot what look like stems to me. Admittedly I have not drank enough houjicha to know the differences.
I followed the instruction on the packaging closely, but customizing it to one person’s portion at 3g of tea leaves. Using a preheated dobin teapot, I steeped the tea leaves in boiling hot water for 30 seconds.
The result was liquor of beautiful amber. It was lightly aromatic, with a subtle hint of burnt rice or nutty smell. The taste was savory and smooth in the mouth.
I tried the second steeping at only 10 seconds with boiling water. The liquor was lighter in colour, and the taste was still savory. The tea went well for a third steeping at the same 10 seconds of boiling hot water, although the taste had become very mild.
The spent leaves looked like overcooked sencha leaves. I actually tried eating a little, and was a little surprised that they tasted quite pleasant. I know I am weird like that.
I am not sure if it is right to compare it to houjicha I have previously drank, as Tosa Aburicha seems to be roasted in a slightly different manner, that is, lightly on the surface only. Maybe I need to try other Tosa Aburicha, there seems to be other producers based on what I found on tea vendors’ sites.
Generally, this tea was very enjoyable at the first try. Being low in caffeine, this is something I look forward to drink at night when I feel like drinking tea at home.