I first discovered Genmaicha when Hitesh used to travel to Japan quiet often for work. On one of his trips back from Japan he brought a few tea bags of this Japanese tea called Genmaicha. He was served this tea at a dinner event and thought I would like it. Back then I was trying to get myself to drink green tea for its health benefits, but I was finding it very hard to enjoy the brew. Hitesh knew this, and thought this Genmaicha tea would get me to like green tea more. So I tried it, and I have been hooked ever since.
Genmaicha is a Japanese green tea mixture with toasted brown rice. I never thought of brown rice as having any flavor, but when it is roasted and added to this green tea it adds a nice nutty flavor and gives the tea a mild earthy aroma. The nutty flavor elevates this green tea to a whole new level.
I used to buy Genmaicha green tea at Whole Foods, but recently they stopped carrying it. The buyer at the store said it didn’t sell as well as the Matcha green tea, which is too bad 😞. But I did get a nice big stash of Genmaicha from my friend Georgina who had stopped by a Japanese store in Sunnyvale, California. She knows how much I love Genmaicha as I have served it to her and other friends too, and all have enjoyed this delicate tea. It really has a wonderfully unique flavor that only toasted brown rice can bring out in green tea.
The Story of Genmaicha:
The Poor Man’s Tea.
Interestingly, the story of Genmaicha is one of desperation in Japan. Genmaicha came out of a need in Japan for affordable tea. Historically, tea was a luxury item that could only be afforded by the Samurai class and the wealthy lords of Japan. The regular peasant class however could not afford this luxury item called tea. And what small amount of tea they could buy would not last long.
Out of this elemental need for their tea to last longer, the peasant class resolved to adulterate their tea with what was plentiful and inexpensive in Japan at that time – rice. They would dilute their tea with a little bit of toasted brown rice. Not only did the rice create larger quantity of a tea drink it also added bulk to the tea leaves, this way what little tea they had could be made to last longer. And since the poorer population could not afford the finer and delicate tea leaves known as the sencha crop which was picked in the spring, they used the larger coarser tea leaves known as bancha that were picked later in the season, thus making their tea even more affordable.
This desperate need for low-cost tea in Japan is how a new tradition of combining tea leaves with rice was born, creating a new tea mixture called Genmaicha. When brewed, genmaicha tea is a light golden yellow in color and very mild, with a nutty and earthy flavor.
For many years Genmaicha remained a poor man’s drink in Japan. The upper classes stayed away from it, as there was no need for them to adulterate their high quality tea with rice. But in recent years a new generation of consumers have discovered Genmaicha. With the price of tea no longer an issue, Genmaicha is now made with high quality sencha rather than bancha (the coarser leaves), and has developed a more mainstream following.
I see matcha everywhere these days, and I acutally assumed it was another name for Genmaicha, but it is not Genmaicha. Matcha is a powdered green tea which is sometimes added to a Genmaicha tea mixture completely changing the flavor and turning the tea green in color. Sometimes matcha is added to sencha tea and sold that way as well. Personally I don’t like the matcha flavor, I find it doesn’t have the nice clean nutty balance that the brown rice gives a Genmaicha green tea.
I love Genmaicha tea. It is my all time favorite green teas. When it comes to green tea, it’s got to be Genmaicha – The Poor Man’s Tea.