|Other names||玄米茶 (Kanji)|
Roasted rice tea
|Quick description||Genmaicha is green tea combined with roasted brown rice, some grains of which have popped.|
Genmaicha (玄米茶, "brown rice tea") is a Japanese brown rice green tea consisting of green tea mixed with roasted popped brown rice. It is sometimes referred to colloquially as "popcorn tea" because a few grains of the rice pop during the roasting process and resemble popcorn, or as "people's tea", as the rice served as a filler and reduced the price of the tea, making it historically more available for poorer Japanese. Today all segments of society drink genmaicha. It was also used by people fasting for religious purposes or who found themselves to be between meals for long periods of time.
The sugar and starch from the rice cause the tea to have a warm, full, nutty flavor. It is considered easy to drink and to make the stomach feel better. Tea steeped from genmaicha has a light yellow hue. Its flavor is mild and combines the fresh grassy flavor of green tea with the aroma of the roasted rice. Although this tea is based on green tea, the recommended way to brew this tea is different: the water should be at about 80–85 °C (176–185 °F), and a brewing time of 3–5 minutes is recommended, depending on desired strength.
Genmaicha is also sold with matcha (powdered green tea) added to it. This product is called matcha-iri genmaicha (抹茶入り玄米茶) (lit. genmaicha with added powdered tea). Matcha-iri genmaicha has a similar flavor to plain genmaicha, but the flavor is often stronger and the color more green than light yellow.
In South Korea, a very similar tea is called hyeonminokcha (현미녹차; "brown rice green tea"), while the word hyeonmicha (현미차), which is a cognate of genmaicha, refers to an infusion of roasted brown rice in boiling water.
Legend says that one day a samurai’s servant named Genmai was pouring tea for his master, when a few kernels of roasted rice fell out of his sleeve into the cup of the samurai. In a fit of anger about the “ruin” of his beloved tea, he drew his katana (sword) and beheaded his servant. The samurai sat back and drank the tea and discovered that the rice had transformed the tea. Rather than ruining it, the rice gave the tea a flavour far superior to the pure tea. He felt instant remorse about his cruel injustice and ordered this new tea to be served every morning in commemoration of his late servant. As a further honour, he named the tea after him: Genmaicha (“tea of Genmai”).