What is Genmai Matcha?
So, if what you’re looking for in your tea is a sweet hit laced with umami but toned down into an easier-to-drink brew, many green tea aficionados would point you to Genmai Matcha. It’s basically Genmaicha, which is green tea mixed with roasted brown rice puffs, combined with a generous dusting of powdered green tea known as Matcha.
What are Genmai Matcha’s key ingredients?
This tea essentially consists of green tea leaves (typically Sencha), roasted popped brown rice, and fine Matcha powder. The tea leaves and the rice puffs represent the Genmaicha portion of this hybrid tea. We have a lot of articles on the more globally known Matcha, including this one, but here’s a little back story on the lesser-known Genmaicha.
What is Genmaicha?
Genmaicha (玄米茶) or Japanese brown rice green tea is sometimes also called “popcorn tea” because some rice grains pop during roasting, but many regards it as the “people’s tea” due to its lower price. The rice acts as a filler, reducing the cost of the tea. This made it more available to those who had a harder time affording pure green tea back then. Of course, these days, all social classes enjoy drinking Genmaicha. It is particularly popular among those who fast, for religious purposes or otherwise, and those who need a more substantial drink than regular tea to tide them over until the next meal.
Genmaicha comes with a fascinating little legend about a samurai warlord in Hakone and his servant named Genmai. One day, while Genmai was pouring green tea for his master, several grains of roasted rice fell from his sleeve into the teacup. Enraged that his tea was “ruined,” the samurai drew his sword and decapitated his poor servant. But when he took a sip of the tea, he discovered that it actually had a pleasant taste. Furthermore, he found that the transformation had given his drink a superior flavor. He instantly felt remorse for his cruelty and ordered the new tea to be served to him every morning in memory of his late servant, after whom the serendipitous blend was also named.
Of course, “genmai” (玄米) is, in fact, the name for unpolished brown rice. Its husks have been removed, but its bran and germ remain intact. That means that “genmaicha” literally means brown rice (genmai) tea (cha). In reality, Genmaicha is rooted deep in Japanese peasant history, dating back to when tea was considered a luxury. To make such an expensive commodity last longer, Japanese peasants used to mix roasted rice with their tea leaves.
What happens when you add Matcha to Genmaicha?
Genmaicha has a very distinctive flavor – warm, full, and nutty. The Japanese also drink it to settle the stomach. In addition, it has a light yellow color with a mild flavor combination of toasted rice and grassy notes from the green tea. Meanwhile, Matcha contributes a creamy sweetness that’s laced with umami. All these flavor profiles combine to create a popular comfort drink. Typically called Matcha-iri Genmaicha, it is often enjoyed as part of an after-school snack by Japanese children, a pre-bedtime relaxing drink, and a cozy beverage during the cold months.
The health benefits of green tea are normally more well-known. You can read all about them here. With Genmaicha Matcha, you can expect the same, plus those derived from genmai, which has a significant amount of vitamins B1, B2, and E, as well as fiber and iron. It is also said to contain an element that stimulates the metabolism, helps reduce signs of aging, and improves hair and skin health.
How can an experience with Genmai Matcha be described?
When asked about the Genmai Matcha experience, some tea connoisseurs said that Genmai Matcha looked like puffed brown rice and young tea leaves dusted with lime green powder before brewing. It also smelled like wasabi peas and dried seaweed snacks. As a drink, it had the color of kiwi flesh at first infusion. The smell also took on the aroma of burnt sweetcorn glazed with soy. Mouthfeel was medium-bodied and quite refreshing. The taste was similar to rice crackers with soy sauce and freshly cut green grass. Overall, Genmai Matcha provides a mild and refreshing drink.
How is Genmai Matcha prepared to drink?
Genmai Matcha is considered an easy tea for brewing. General steeping directions recommend a teaspoon of tea for eight ounces of water, which should be steeped at 80 to 85 degrees Celsius or 176 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit for three to five minutes. However, some prefer a lighter tea and simply steep for just a minute. While customarily enjoyed as a warm drink, Genmai Matcha also makes a delightful cold drink.
Genmai Matcha is a celebrated Japanese tea drink that presents a great color, flavor, and texture balance. It delivers a hearty brew that can be drunk with a meal or on its own at any time of the day or year.
Here are examples of tea we carried mentioned in this blog post:
- ShizuokaTea.com – Genmai Matcha
- KagoshimaTea.com – Genmai Matcha
- ShizoukaTea.com – Organic Genmai Matcha
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