Genmaicha is a blend of green tea with well-roasted brown rice, called Genmai. The rice adds a nutty taste and roasted aroma to the tea. The green tea used for Genmaicha is usually Bancha which works well with the Genmai. Genmai has a strong aroma which could overpower a tea with a soft flavor, so Bancha, with its stronger flavor, matches the Genmai better. Additionally Bancha is a relatively inexpensive tea which helps keep the price of Genmaicha attractive. Generally Genmaicha is considered an everyday tea, but by blending in some Matcha it has become a little more luxurious and the price is still reasonable. Matcha adds a vivid color to the cup and rich Umami flavor. Also Genmai Houjicha is very enjoyable. It is a blend of Houjicha with Genmai; a great marriage of two toasted flavors and it makes a wonderful iced tea!
History - How Genmaicha was invented?
There are several stories about the origin of Genmaicha. One of the more plausible tales says that Genmaicha was started by a tea shop in Kyoto about 80 years ago. They found adding roasted rice cake to their tea perked up the aroma and flavor. Since rice cakes are an essential part of the Japanese New Year's holiday menu, there are lots of rice cakes left after celebrating the New Year. Not wanting to waste them, they broke hard rice cakes into small pieces, toasted them and put them into green tea. There is another dubious story that one area in the northern part of Japan had a custom of adding rice, beans or grains to tea. This added more volume to the rather expensive tea leaves for those non-tea producing areas allowing them to stretch their tea supply.
Genmaicha has all the health of green tea plus the health benefits of brown rice. The notable rice ingredients are "γ-oryzanol" that may improve blood cholesterol, "GABA" known as an antidepressant and several types of Vitamin B that may promote recovery from fatigue and slow the aging process. Also Genmaicha contains less caffeine than other green teas like Sencha, Gyokuro or Matcha because half of Genmaicha is Bancha which has a low caffeine level and the other half is brown rice which has no caffeine. Another benefit is its robust aroma which promotes relaxation.
For aromatic teas like Genmaicha (or Houjicha), the aroma is an important part of enjoying the tea. Boil the water and pour directly onto the tea in the pot to enjoy the aroma. Here is a video which demonstrates a good technique for brewing Genmaicha.
Great Iced Tea!
As you can imagine, this aromatic green tea is great for iced tea. For brewing iced tea use 50% more leaves in the teapot. Steep as directed for hot tea. Once you brew it, put ice into the glass to lock in the aroma.
Den's Genmaicha Quality
If your Genmaicha tastes mostly of rice, then the Genmaicha might contain more than 50% Genmai or may contain a low quality green tea. Genmaicha should have a good robust rice aroma, yet you want to enjoy the taste of the green tea. The quality of Genmaicha is determined by the quality of Genmai and green tea. Our Genmai is made from roasted sweet rice, so the flavor extracted from this Genmai is sweeter. We use a good quality green tea, Bancha, Sencha or Houjicha even though the strong Genmai aroma may mask the flavor of the less robust teas. The green tea flavor is still the most important element for Genmaicha. The matcha we used for Genmaicha Extra Green is ceremonial grade. This gives an emerald green cup and good Umami. We always look for the best combination.
Genmai and Hana
Genmaicha is sometimes called "popcorn tea" because the popped rice blended in the tea looks similar to pop corn. This white fluffy popped rice is called Hana. Hana is basically for decoration, and adds little to the aroma and flavor. Genmai is roasted rice, but it's not that simple. Rice is steamed first, and then roasted. This way, Genmai becomes more aromatic, sweeter and fluffy. Pick a few Genmai from Genmaicha when you have a chance and eat it. You will see how good this rice cracker is!