Xuan Mi-Genmai Cha
Genmai Cha is a type of tea which is very popular in Japan, made by combining Sencha green tea with toasted rice. Because the rice sometimes puffs into popcorn like shapes, Genmaicha is sometimes known as popcorn tea. In some areas, this Japanese tea is served with Macha, a type of powdered green tea, to enhance the green tea flavor. The slightly grassy, slightly nutty flavor of Genmaicha has long been popular in Japan, and consumers from other nations enjoy this toasted rice tea as well.
In Japanese, “Genmaicha” literally means brown rice tea, as “cha” means tea and “genmai” refers to dark, unhulled rice. Roasted brown rice has a more rich, nutty flavor than hulled grains. Sencha tea is more strongly flavored than some other types of green tea, picked in the spring and steamed immediately after picking and then dried in hot air before being pan roasted. The leaves of Sencha are tightly furled, and have a slightly bittersweet flavor which pairs well with toasted rice.
According to ancient Japanese legend, during the 15th century, a servant named Genmai was serving his master, a samurai warrior, some tea when a few grains of rice accidentally fell out of his pocket and into the pot. The warrior was so infuriated that his servant had “ruined” a perfectly good cup of tea that he chopped off his head. He decided to drink the cup of tea anyway, and discovered that he enjoyed the distinct flavor of the tea and rice infusion. In honor of his poor servant, he insisted that this combination of tea and rice be served every morning and named it genmaicha (“cha” means tea in Japanese).
Another story claims that genmaicha was a way for frugal Japanese housewives to stretch their tea with the addition of rice to get the most out of their precious tea leaves.
Unlike the affordable luxury it had become today, tea was historically a pricey commodity. The Japanese peasants found it difficult to afford much tea, and would mix it with roasted rice, which was abundant and cheap. Thus, they were able to squeeze more cups from the same amount of leaves.
Whether its origin was accidental or practical, genmaicha had outgrown its humble origins to become a favorite of many urban dwellers in both Asia and the West.
The fresh, vegetal character of the green tea is balanced with the toasted, nutty flavor of the rice.
As the tea steeps, it will start to turn a rich amber color and will fill the air with the fresh leafy smell of green tea, combined with earthier undertones from the brown rice. Toasty and malty with a smooth, rounded body and satisfying aroma.