It is possible that you have never heard of genmaicha or, at least, that you do not know exactly what it is. This variety of Japanese green tea surprises with its preparation and flavor that combines an infusion with a cereal.
As is often the case, there is no reliable data to explain how the genmaicha was born. Legend has it that a servant named Genmai tripped, spilling roasted rice into the cup of green tea of his chief, a samurai. This, very angry, ordered to cut off his head. However, when tasting the tea, he was amazed by its delicious taste and so, in his honor, he named it Genmaicha (Genmai for servant and Cha, for tea in Japanese).
Another theory states that the invention arose by accident when a man dropped his kagami mochi (a rice cake) on the ground and, in order not to throw it away, he decided to eat it by dipping its pieces in his green tea.
If you are not afraid of the unknown and, on the contrary, enjoy discovering new infusions and flavors, read on and find out exactly what genmaicha is and how you can prepare a perfect cup of this variety of green tea at home.
What is the genecha?
Made from the lower leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, genmaicha tea is part of the family of Japanese green teas called bancha, which also includes hojicha and yanagi.
First of all, it is important to note that it is a tea. Remember that tea and infusion are not synonyms. Although all tea is an infusion, not all infusion is a tea.
In particular, genmaicha is an unusual tea, due to its combination with an unusual ingredient, rice. As you read, this green tea is mixed with cereal to obtain a deep brown drink with a roasted flavor that, in many cases, can remind you of popcorn.
Experts point out that this variety helps improve digestion, in addition to having the many antioxidant effects of green tea, which protects the body from oxidative stress, preventing various degenerative diseases and premature aging.
Like all tea, genmaicha is made from the leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, which, being a variety of green tea, undergo a very brief oxidation process.
The production process begins with the collection of leaves, which generally takes place three times a year. It is done manually, separating the young and old leaves, the branches and everything that can be used to prepare different types of tea.
To make bancha, the lower leaves of the tea bush are collected and, specifically for genmaicha, those that are discarded at the time of making sencha, the most consumed green tea in Japan, are used. In fact, it is estimated that 80% of the tea produced in that country is used to make this variety.
The choice of these leaves directly influences the color and flavor of the tea since, having received direct exposure to the sun, they have a higher dose of tannins.
After harvesting, the minimal oxidation process of green tea begins, which is stopped by cooking the leaves in bamboo trays that receive heat through a bowl of boiling water placed under them for around 20 seconds.
After cooking, the leaves are left to dry in the air, thus eliminating moisture to allow subsequent rolling that maintains the flavor, color and aroma. To make genmaicha, dried tea leaves are mixed with roasted rice (genmai in Japanese) in a 1:1 ratio.
The rice used to prepare this mixture is white, despite the fact that in many places it is spoken of as brown rice. This confusion may be because genmai is the Japanese word for roasted rice and brown rice. In any case, toasted white rice is usually chosen as it is more aromatic when toasted.
The highest quality genmaicha incorporates a special rice called mochi, although it is also possible to get this tea mixed with ordinary Japanese rice (uruchimai).
Regardless of the kind of rice, the process is the same. The cereal is first soaked in water and then steamed (just like tea leaves). After these steps, it is dried with hot air and later, it is roasted in large drums where it is caramelized with its own starch, then incorporated cold into the tea leaves to achieve the genmaicha.
What does the genmaicha taste like?
This infusion has a herbaceous flavor, typical of green tea, combined with a pleasant toasty, slightly bitter and malty aftertaste. Genmaicha can be drunk hot as well as cold. In fact, its bitter undertone can be extremely refreshing if drunk with ice.
How to prepare a perfect cup of genmaicha
The reality is that preparing this infusion is very, very easy. Once you have bought genmaicha in bulk at your trusted store, all you have to do is:
- Heat the water to 80ºC. Remember that excessive heat can make your green tea bitter, while water that is too cold will not be able to extract all the flavors and aromas of it.
- Infuse 3 grams of genmaicha per cup of water, that is, about a teaspoon.
- Let stand between 2 and 4 minutes according to your taste. Keep in mind that the longer the infusion time, the stronger the flavor of the tea will be. Ready!
Now that you know what genmaicha is, don’t hesitate to try it. Enjoy its flavor and benefits, including its digestive and antioxidant properties.