Since first arriving on Japan's shores in the 9th century from China, tea and its consumption have become integral in the nation’s culture. Japanese green tea, made from unoxidised and less processed tea leaves, is particularly popular domestically and is also one of the country’s notable exports. With the global craze around Japanese green tea, variants such as sencha, matcha and hojicha have become more familiar and favoured among consumers. However, more recently genmaicha, a tea made with green tea leaves and roasted brown rice, has gained traction outside Japan due to its peculiar and complex blend of flavours. This lesser-known variant is coming into its own, offering eager consumers the familiar bittersweet taste of green tea, enhanced with nuttier notes of roasted brown rice.
STEEPED IN TRADITION
Although at times colloquially called “popcorn tea”, genmaicha contains no corn nor does its flavour resemble popcorn. Instead, it gained the name because during its preparation, a few grains of the brown rice pop in the roasting process, resembling popcorn. Also endearingly referred to as “the people’s tea”, genmaicha is believed to have originated in old Kyoto, and was traditionally consumed by those on scant rations. Affording only the cheapest grade of green tea, they would mix it with roasted brown rice, allowing them to stretch out their portion of the tea and gain some added nutrition along with it.
SMOOTH, SAVOURY AND SOOTHING
Coupling sencha — a loose-leaf green tea with a more astringent flavour — with nutty roasted brown rice, genmaicha seamlessly fuses their distinct tasting notes, resulting in a smooth, savoury and balanced flavour on the palate. Though often enjoyed as a simple tea, when infused into cocktails, lattes or cakes, genmaicha elevates them with its fragrance and rich flavour. The tea’s health benefits are aplenty too. The naturally fibre-rich brown rice helps balance blood sugar and reduce bad cholesterol. A low-caffeine tea containing GABA — a neurotransmitter that facilitates sleep and lowers mental stress, genmaicha makes for the perfect calming treat before bed. Whether to experiment with at home or to serve up to customers, here’s how to infuse genmaicha into delightful drinks for a soothing sip.