It is believed that tea first made its way to Japan during the 8th century when Buddhist monks brought tea tree seeds from China to their native land. What started out as a beverage associated with religion, Japanese green tea quickly spread to royalty, upper-class citizens, and then to common everyday people over the course of a few centuries.
With the rise in popularity, different Japanese green tea varieties were invented and gained admiration. One of these styles is genmaicha tea. Made from a combination of tea leaves and roasted popped brown rice, genmaicha has a unique look and distinct taste.
How It Was Created
Genmaicha was first created by Buddhist monks in Shizuoka, Japan. Not wanting any food or resources to go to wait, they mixed some green tea with their used rice cauldrons. The brown rice stuck to the bottom of the cauldron was heated alongside the tea leaves, creating this new tasty green tea variety.
Getting Its Name
This tea blend is made up of a mixture of tea leaves and genmai brown rice. Before mixing the two together, the rice is dried with hot air. During this process, some of the rice pops and look like small pieces of popcorn. Once the rice and tea leaves have both been processed, they are mixed together in a 1:1 ratio. It is these little popcorn-like pieces that led to the tea’s name, “popcorn tea.”
For this type of mixture, lower-quality bancha tea leaves are used. There are some special blends, however, that mix a higher quality sencha tea leaf with dried rice. Before mixing with the rice filler, the tea leaves are steamed, dried, and rolled. This gives genmaicha tea leaves their needle-like appearance.
This blend was cheaper in ancient Japan. Not only was a dried brown rice filler used, but lower-quality tea was also relied on. Both of these factors made this green tea variety more accessible to those with little money. It’s also the reason this tea is sometimes referred to as “people’s tea.”
Brewing Genmaicha Tea
Whether making genmaicha with tea bags or following the instructions for a traditional loose-leaf brew, genmaicha is easy to make. In fact, it can be made in a few steps.
To make this beverage, you will need a pot or kettle to boil water in, a mug to drink the tea out of, and a tea bag.
- Bring some water, preferably spring water, to a boil. Let it sit for a few minutes until it reaches a temperature somewhere between 176°F. and 185°F.
- Place one tea bag into your mug and pour in the water once it reaches the correct temperature.
- Let the tea bag steep for 3-5 minutes before removing it. Then, sweeten the tea if desired, or enjoy it as is!
Customarily, Japanese homes use a small appliance called a hot pot, or a hot water dispenser, when making tea. Since it is enjoyed during all times of day, many times a day, this helps keep hot water on hand.
If you want to make genmaicha in a more traditional way, you will need a tea kettle or pot to boil some water on the stove (if you do not own a hot water dispenser). You will also need a teapot and tea cups or a mug to drink out of.
- Boil some water, preferably spring water or fresh water, and pour it into the empty teapot. At this point, the teapot should only contain hot water.
- Fill each cup or mug with the boiling water from the teapot. Not only will this cool the water down to the desired temperature (somewhere between 176°F. and 185°F.) but it will also pre-heat the tea cups. Once all the tea cups have been filled, discard any hot water left in the teapot to ensure the tea will not be weak from excess water.
- Add one teaspoon of genmaicha tea leaves to the empty teapot for each cup of tea that you are brewing. (If you filled two tea cups with boiling water from the teapot, you would need to add 2 teaspoons of loose leaves.)
- Once the water has reached the correct temperature, pour the water from the teacups back into the teapot and over the tea leaves. Steep the tea for two minutes.
- After the tea has finished steeping, pour a small amount of tea into the first cup, then pour the same amount into every other cup that you are making. The process of filling the cups a little at a time and keeping the same amount of tea in them will ensure that one cup is not weaker or stronger than the next. To make sure that each cup of tea tastes alike and enjoyable, do not fill one cup all the way and then fill up the next. Continue pouring tea into the tea cups in small, even amounts until the teapot is empty. Then, if you are not adding any sweeteners, it is time to enjoy the fresh brew!
Appearance, Aroma, & Taste
This yellow-tinted brew has been described as having a roasted flavor like that of buttered toast. Its nutty aroma complements the vegetal and sweet notes that can be picked up on hiding behind its roasted taste.
Caffeine and Nutrition
One serving of genmaicha tea, since it is made up of a blend of tea leaves and dried brown rice, contains less caffeine than some other green teas. In one tea bag or one teaspoon of loose leaf, there is approximately 20 mg of caffeine. With little nutritional value, there is zero calories, fats, carbs, proteins, and sugars in one 8 oz serving.
This Japanese green tea variety blends tea leaves with dried brown rice to create a unique flavor. Made from a lower-quality tea leaf, and mixed with rice as a filler, this tea has often been referred to as “people’s tea” due to its accessibility and cheaper price. Don’t let that fool you, however. Genmaicha packs a flavorful, roasty-toasty punch in a cup.