Genmaicha is a wonderful tea with a rich history. Its name in English is “brown rice tea”. The first thing you’ll notice about it are the grains of toasted rice inside the tea. This was originally used by the poor in Japan as a way to make their tea last longer during times of hardship. It was also used for people who were fasting.
The fresh aroma of hot toasted rice may not be enough to add sustenance to one’s diet, but it definitely reminded people of food enough to make their fast a bit easier. Because this tea was so commonly used by the poor, it became known in Japan as “the people’s tea”. Ironically, the tea became so widely loved that now premium labels can command a very high price for this amazing tea. From its humble origins, to its exotic appeal, this tea has captivated many people and it’s easy to see why.
Genmaicha is also referred to as “popcorn tea”. This name refers to the small pieces of popped rice inside the tea that look exactly like popcorn but a smaller version. This is because when toasted, grains of rice can pop just like corn kernels. I tend to avoid this term because popcorn is often used in cheaper varieties of tea and the taste is far different than that of Genmaicha. The popped grains of rice definitely do add a lighter note to the tea, which is very smooth.
I tend to use this tea in the same fashion as the Japanese did. In the morning, I drink this tea before breakfast as a way to remind myself of nice warm oatmeal. It helps me satisfy my carb cravings but mostly it is just a welcome taste and aroma in the early morning. I also think the sencha itself is very high quality overall. I have had some good genmaicha and some bad genmaicha in my day and the main difference is the quality of the tea itself. The toasted rice is definitely the easy part, but the tea is a bit more complicated.
Where is Genmaicha Normally Grown?
Grown in the Kagoshima prefecture, this tea is processed using the Fukamushi or deep staining method. What this means is that the flavor is very delicate and it is recommended to not kill it with too high temperature water or too long of a steep time. The tea combines the delicate aroma of roasted rice with the fresh grassy taste of Japanese green tea. This tea is popular at sushi restaurants because it makes for a great pallet cleanser. The vegetal yet slightly astringent taste of the green tea mixed with the roasted rice hits the reset button on your taste buds as soon as it hits your tongue.
Best Place to Buy Genmaicha
If you are looking for a place to get this wonderful tea, I must make a few recommendations first. You have to decide whether or not you want to have popped rice grains or simply just roasted rice grains. Both of these can be purchased quite easily, although my guess is that the higher end or more authentic teas will include the popped grains as well. It makes little difference to the flavor, but some tea veterans may think that the Genmaicha with popped grains has a toasted rice aroma that is a bit lighter because the inside of the rice grain has been exposed. You may also want to consider the different types of tea bases. You have two main options here, the regular Genmaicha, or the Matcha-iri Genmaicha. The Matcha-iri has powdered matcha tea added in for good measure. This really brings out the green tea flavor, and can sometimes overpower the toasted rice. If your goal is to overpower the taste of the rice, or you’re just simply a huge matcha green tea fan, this might be a good option for you. A good starting brand that everyone seems to like is the Genmaicha from Positively tea company.
This one is made with much more high quality leaves. I would recommend trying the first one to begin with and make sure you like the taste of Genmaicha before you invest in a premium product.The recommended steep time for this tea is 175-185 for 3-5 minutes. Be careful not to overstep this tea, as it can pick up a bitter taste very easily. With a lower steep time and temperature, you will be able to pick up the buttery notes of the toasted rice. If you let it steep for too long, however it will be overpowered by the green tea.
I hope everyone gets a chance to enjoy this wonderful tea! Please feel free to talk about your Genmaicha experience in the comments section below. See you next time!