Does roasting green tea have any advantages or disadvantages? This is something on many people’s minds, and they're particularly interested in whether roasting green tea makes their favorite beverage less healthy. In today's post, you'll find the answers you've been looking for!
History of Roasting Green Tea
There are many delicious varieties of green tea available, each with its own flavor profile and health benefits.
One that has been garnering attention lately is hojicha (AKA houjicha), or roasted green tea. Made from the pan-roasted leaves and stems of tea, hojicha was first developed in Kyoto, Japan, in the 1920s and has become popular worldwide.
(Learn more about the history of green tea in this post.)
Many health claims have been made about roasting green tea. But people have begun wondering if hojicha is as beneficial for our health as regular green tea. There’s the possibility that the roasting process can strip tea of its natural health-giving properties while enhancing others.
(Read all about the science behind green tea and its health benefits in this post.)
While it’s important to keep in mind that all tea will have health benefits, the chemical composition of each particular variety determines the extent and strength of the wellness boost it can provide.
As tea drinking becomes more common, studies are continually being done to fully understand this plant’s health-giving properties.
Although there hasn’t been much research done on hojicha yet, a few studies can give us a good idea of what makes it different from steam and fan-dried green tea.
Next, let’s go over some of the key differences between regular green tea varieties and roasted hojicha to see what the research says.
Does Roasting Green Tea Lower the Caffeine Content?
One of the health claims surrounding hojicha is that, due to the roasting process, hojicha contains lower levels of caffeine than other types of green tea.
But it's helpful to remember that caffeine in itself isn’t necessarily detrimental to health.
It’s been shown to have its own potential benefits in moderate amounts. Not to mention, the lower caffeine levels from roasting green tea would appeal to some people who may want to enjoy the health-giving properties of green tea but have restrictions on the amount of caffeine they can consume, including children and the elderly.
Hojicha does indeed have lower levels of caffeine than other green teas. However, it isn’t for the reasons you might think. Studies done in Japan on the levels of caffeine across different tea varieties show lower caffeine levels in roasted tea versus some other teas.
But not all!
Gyokuro, a premium shade-grown green tea variety, had an average caffeine content of 3.25%.
And sencha, made from the first flush of tea plants, had about 2.57% caffeine. Bancha, the second flush of tea and the variety that hojicha is made from, had 1.55% caffeine on average.
What about hojicha? The samples in this study averaged 1.76% caffeine, higher than its frequent parent tea, bancha.
How can this be? Doesn’t roasting break down caffeine? Well, not really. Coffee has much more caffeine than any green tea variety. And yet, its beans are always roasted before use.
So, what can we attribute to the lower caffeine content in roasted green tea?
Most likely, it's due to it being made from tea leaves and stems that are already lower in caffeine to begin with, rather than the roasting process.
How Many Antioxidant are in Hojicha?
Green tea is well known for having very high levels of antioxidants, especially catechins. These compounds have been studied in-depth and have been shown to protect against damage to cells from cancer-causing free radicals and fight heart disease, liver disease, obesity, and diabetes.
Want to learn more about catechins, polyphenols, and EGCG? (Take a look at this blog post next.)
Yet do these same protective effects extend to roasted green tea as well? The research doesn’t seem to think so.
A recent study on tea’s antioxidant content based on its processing and brewing method, it showed that high-temperature roasting significantly reduced the final antioxidant concentration in those brews. They concluded that the roasting process destroys many of the catechins present in the fresh leaf.
So if you’re looking for an antioxidant boost, it’s best to stick to regular green tea.
Is there a Relationship between Hojicha and Stroke Risk?
This may come as a surprise to some. But there is a well-documented relationship between green tea consumption and stroke risk.
It’s an inverse relationship, of course. This means drinking green tea significantly reduces the risk of having a stroke. Green tea also reduces the risk of death even if a person does have a stroke and the likelihood that they’ll have a second stroke.
Is this incredible protective quality also present in roasted green teas? Let’s take a look at what scientists have to say about that.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, the answer is no.
This study couldn’t find any relationships. at all, good or bad, between drinking roasted green tea and stroke risk.
Naturally, it’s comforting to know that hojicha won't harm you. But it’s also important to keep in mind that you won’t get the same protective effect from unroasted green tea.
Should I Quit Drinking Hojicha?
While roasted green tea may not share all the same health-giving properties that other types of tea possess, let's remember that tea research is still developing. And, as more studies come out, who knows what incredible things will be discovered about hojicha?
Regardless of its health benefits, though, roasting green tea should still be valued for its unique taste and its rich history alongside the other varieties of Camellia sinensis.