Genmaicha, sometimes known as popcorn tea, is a tea with a fascinating history. Many years ago, it was the preserve of Japan’s poorest people. They took green tea and added brown rice grains to it. This served two purposes – to make the tea go further and to benefit from the filling grains of brown rice. The brown rice often popped into little popcorn pieces during its final roast, hence the alternative name of popcorn tea. These days, it’s a very popular choice with all people in Japan, and commonly served across the entire country.
1) Genmaicha can be literally translated as “brown rice tea”. Genmai means brown rice, and cha means tea. Genmaicha’s pronunciation is actually quite simple. It’s gen (rhyming with 'hen')-my-char.
2) If you’d like to get a pot of genmaicha brewing, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s actually a pretty foolproof drink to make. While some green teas can be bitter if you leave them to brew for too long, the roasted rice steps in and covers any astringent taste. To make a serving for yourself, you need 4g of genmaicha, and a cup of water heated to around 185 degrees. Leave the genmaicha to steep for one minute. While you can leave it to brew for longer, anything more than two minutes can cause the rice to become overly grainy, and spoil the texture.
3) Genmaicha’s benefits are numerous. Not only is it entirely gluten free, it’s full of antioxidants – even more than black tea, and some vegetables, which can boost your immune system and help drain away toxins. It also contains the active ingredient theanine, which relaxes and soothes your brain. In turn, it tackles hypertension, lowering blood pressure and reducing the chance of heart disease.
4) Genmaicha caffeine levels are almost non-existent, which is why it’s such a relaxing beverage. A recent scientific study by The Journal of Food Science found just 4mg of caffeine in an 8oz serving. That’s less than a tenth of what you’d find in an espresso coffee.
5) The genmaicha taste can be quite complex. Toasted rice contributes a nutty, earthy element, while the green tea base is refreshing and cleansing. Light and smooth with just a hint of sweetness seems to be the most agreed upon description.
Ready to try genmaicha for yourself? Have a look at Nanami’s organic Genmaicha, single origin, direct from Kyoto.