Drinking Hojicha Increases Alpha Waves in the Brain
The NHK TV program Tameshite Gatten had an episode which introduced the health effects of the fragrance of Hojicha.
In the episode, they investigated how relaxed the brain was after drinking both Hojicha and Rokucha.
Hojicha is made from roasted Rokucha, and unroasted Rokucha typically contains a large amount of Theanine, and amino acid which relaxes the body. This is why drinking Rokucha is known to make it easier to relax.
However, Hojicha only contains one hundredth of the Theanine in Rokucha, which makes it seem that it wouldn’t have the same relaxing power as Rokucha.
But when drunk, Hojicha had about the same relaxing power as Rokucha.
Even more surprising was the fact that smelling the scent of the roasted tea leaves had just as much of a relaxing affect as drinking the tea, even though it had only been smelled.
In order to investigate further into the scent of Hojicha, the show took a sommelier who is an expert in scents to a place where a master was roasting tea, and had him smell the area.
When they did this, every time the tea leaves went through the machine and were roasted they found that scents like fresh grass, citrus, flowers, nuts, and coffee beans were coming from them.
When I researched this, I found that even more detailed research had been completed by professor Koga Yoshihiko of the neuropsychiatry department of the medical department of Kyorin University (in Tokyo).
According to the professor “through our experiments we found that after smelling the scent, the brain worked smoothly.” The aromatic compound Pyrazine is found in Hojicha, and he thinks it may be responsible for this sedative effect.
Hojicha is tea made by roasting (hojiru) regular Rokucha. It is a type of Rokucha, but by roasting the tea leaves until they roast brown in color, the tannins responsible for the bitterness of the tea are reduced, and the roasted scent is increased.
“After investigating the effects of the scent, we found that the alpha waves in the brain, which indicate smooth functioning of the brain, were clearly increased in after smelling the scent.” (Professor Yoshihiko)
When alpha waves are increased and the brain is working smoothly, it follows naturally that one’s mood would also relax. So why is it that the scent of Hojicha has this calming effect?
“It is possible that the Pyrazine contained in the scent of Hojicha are affecting the activity of nerves in the brain.” (Professor Yoshihiko)
In addition to its sedative effects, Pyrazine is also said to promote circulation, and act as an antithrombotic.
Brewing with Boiling Water
Hojicha has been drunk by Japanese people since ancient times, and because it contains almost no caffeine or tannin, there is no need to worry about side effects.
“It could be said that when you’re feeling unsettled its worth trying drinking Hojicha. When you do, pouring boiling water directly into the teapot is especially effective.”
When Hojicha is brewed with boiling water, the fragrance becomes stronger. You can then pour the tea into a teacup to drink it slowly while enjoying the scent.
According to professor Yoshihiko, “Hojicha is originally a drink for the common people in Japan. By simply enjoying the steps of brewing, smelling the scent, and then drinking it without being caught up in further formalities, this drink can have an even stronger relaxing effect.
For hot weather like we have now, I would recommend cold brewed Hojicha.
Hojicha tea leaves 8 g (about 4 tablespoons)
Just boiled water enough to cover the leaves (about 2 tablespoons)
Ice 180 g (about 10 to 15 cubes)
Water 120 ml
A stainless steel bottle (thermoses containing a layer of glass inside may crack, so please don’t use them!)
- Instructions -
Place the Hojicha tea leaves in the bottle
Pour in enough boiling hot water to cover the tea leaves
*Make sure you’re using really boiling hot water. This will help bring out the fragrant scent! Just please be careful you don’t burn yourself.
Place in the ice first, and then the water, before placing the lid on securely and then shaking up and down for about 20 seconds.
When finished shaking, leave the bottle for about 40 seconds.
*If you like your tea stronger, leaving the bottle for longer will strengthen the taste.
Strain through a tea strainer, and then pour into a glass.