Tea of the Week: Den’s Tea’s Houjicha

Fallen leaves crunching under your boots, crisp breezes, and cozy evenings filled with candlelight mark a season worth savoring. While cinnamon or spiced flavored teas often come to mind this time of year, a woody Japanese Houjicha (a.k.a. Hojicha) is one of my favorite fall blends. There couldn’t be a brew more reminiscent of a golden autumn harvest.

Den’s Tea’s Houjicha tea bags contain a roasted green tea that’s strong on toasty, savory notes. This tea brews to a dark chocolate brown, almost like a lightly roasted coffee. But despite its looks, Houjicha is smooth and sweet, low in caffeine, and hardly bitter at all.

As the evenings get longer, Den’s Tea’s Houjicha is a comforting, full-flavored brew to cuddle up with. Throw a few of these delightfully wrapped tea bags in your travel bag or purse and you’ll have a delicious tea to enjoy in any beautiful fall setting. 

Tasting Notes for Den’s Tea’s Houjicha Pyramid Tea Bags:

BREWING TIPS:  190 degrees F for 30 seconds up to 2 minutes. I like a darker brew. This green tea can tolerate a higher temperature than unroasted, vegetal green teas.

THE BLEND:  A roasted Japanese green tea. Cut, twig-like tea leaves, in pyramid tea bags with a notched tag for easy placement on the edge of your teacup.

THE SCENT:  Smells of aged wood, dried leaves, and roasted chestnuts.

THE STEEP:  A clear, dark brew that looks like watered down coffee. Very smooth, mild, and sweet in a caramel-like way. Tastes like roasted nuts with full-bodied flavor and buttery, toasty notes.

GET IT:  At the Den’s Tea website or at well-stocked Japanese markets.

FOOD PAIRING:  This would be perfect with favorite autumn foods like pumpkin, pecan, or sweet potato pie. Also a delicious complement to Pumpkin DangoMaple Pumpkin Cupcakes or Pumpkin Butter Mochi. And since the tea is distinctly savory, it would be delicious with roasted vegetables (brussels sprouts!) or squash (butternut!) and even Thanksgiving turkey.

Pumpkin & Green Tea Dango

It’s been a long time since my last mochi post, so I decided to experiment with making dango this week. Also known as Japanese sweet rice dumplings, these soft and chewy rice balls are often made with water or even tofu as the binding ingredient.

With an open can of pumpkin purée staring back at me every time I opened my fridge, I decided to go for it…Pumpkin & Green Tea Dango with a Black Sesame Sauce–a recipe that sounds unique and looks peculiar, but tastes amazing!

If you are craving a mochi type of snack and don’t want a lot of mess and fuss, I’m highly convinced that dango are the way to go. Dango are commonly found in the beautiful pink, white, and green variation known as Hanami Dango.

With Halloween just around the corner, I went for orange, green, and black variation where the main flavors are pumpkin, green tea, and black sesame. These natural, wholesome ingredients are complex in texture and flavor–a fall inspired version of the traditional favorite, Goma (sesame) Dango.

I’m not sure if a 2 teaspoon measure exists out there, but this amount makes a perfectly sized dango dumpling. What’s great about these dumplings is that after you shape them, you can easily freeze the round dumplings for later. Simply boil a large pot of water, drop the dumplings in, and wait for them to float to the surface. A plunge into cold water and a quick skewering and you’re almost done!

This black sesame sauce takes just a minute to make. If you can’t find black sesame powder, you can take black sesame seeds and grind them down finely in a spice grinder. The sauce has a nutty, sweet, and slightly savory flavor, and the dumplings are naked (and not nearly as delicious) without it.

Instead of serving cupcakes, cookies, or candy to celebrate Halloween this year why not celebrate with Pumpkin Dango? A cup of toasty, twiggy (lots of stems!) Japanese Hojicha would pair perfectly with these beautiful skewers. There couldn’t be a better snack to celebrate autumn’s most delicious flavors.

Pumpkin & Green Tea Dango

Makes 9 skewers.

Ingredients:

{Rice Dumplings}

1 cup +2 Tbsp glutinous rice flour

3 Tbsp sugar

3/4 cup pumpkin purée

2 tsp matcha powder, sifted

{Black Sesame Sauce}

1 cup black sesame powder

1/2 cup honey

3/4 cup hot water

Equipment:

2 large mixing bowls

tsp measure

large plate

large pot

slotted spoon

shallow medium bowl of ice water

9 skewers, 5 “or 6” is ideal

small mixing bowl

Directions:

1.)  In a large bowl combine rice flour, sugar, and pumpkin. Knead until thoroughly incorporated. Divide dough in half, then place one of the halves in another large bowl and add the sifted matcha powder to it. Knead the green tea dough until it is throughly incorporated and has an even green color.

2.)  Use tsp measure to measure out 2 tsp balls of the rice dough. Use your hands to roll each ball until it is smooth, then park them on a large plate. Repeat this process with the green tea dough. You should end up with 28 balls (14 orange, 14 green).

3.)  Fill a large pot with water and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil the rice dumplings until they completely float on the surface of the water, mixing occasionally to prevent sticking. If the dumplings are at room temperature (not frozen) this will take 5-6 minutes. When the balls are floating, remove them from the hot water using a slotted spoon, then plunge them into the medium bowl of ice water.

4.)  When the balls have cooled, use a skewer to pierce through the center of 3 of the dumplings, leaving a 1/4″ allowance at the tip of the skewer. Repeat the process with all 9 skewers, then set the dango aside.

5.)  Combine the black sesame powder, honey, and hot water together in a small bowl. Plate the dango by spooning about 2 Tbsp of the black sesame sauce on a small plate, then place the pumpkin dango on top and serve.