I have a habit. To say a rule would be too strong, because I don’t always abide, but a habit is about right. When purchasing any kind of flavored tea (which, for me, amounts to earl gray, genmaicha and spiced chai), I don’t bother to buy really expensive, fine tea as I would for, say, a shade-grown green or a pai mu tan white. The whole process of flavoring and scenting teas was developed to help make less desirable leaf more desirable. So why spend more on leaf that would be just fine by itself, only to mask its natural notes with flavoring? So this is a genmaicha that I buy at Asian groceries and super markets. Big, green foil bag. And for me, for genmaicha, that’s about as classy as I get.
This particular genmaicha is very nutty compared to some others which are mostly green with a hint of roast. The rice is all brown, no popped white kernels at all, and the leaf is very bright, but dark green (neither pale, nor muddy). The tea itself is grassy enough to hold up to the roast from the rice, and the resulting cup is quite bold but not bitter, burnt or kelpy. I usually only drink teas like this in the summer because it is so bright and open, but our weather today has the promise of spring all over it and I just couldn’t bring myself to make pu-erh or oolong today.
I feel bad giving this a 3/4’s rating, but I just can’t bring myself to rate a flavored tea anywhere above that point, knowing that all the fine, delicate teas I’ll be drinking will certainly be up in that range. As good as this tea is, for what it is, it does not belong in that company.