Salt and pepper, Macaroni and Cheese and Fish and Chips. Some things were just meant to go together. But, there is one perfect combination that most people don't know about. And this combination actually makes sense. It combines the two staples of cuisine that the Japanese are obsessive about - Green Tea and Rice.
The key is toasted rice
While white rice may not make too much sense in tea, toasted rice has a completely different flavor. Toasted rice (or puffed rice) has a toasty, almost nutty flavor that melds perfectly with the green tea base.
The Green Tea is Bancha
Bancha is almost the same tea as Sencha, but it is plucked at a later date. Bancha has the same fresh flavor as Sencha, but with more of an astringent bite. This gives it a more robust "green" flavor that matches perfectly with the toasted rice.
Genmaicha was born from the working class of Japan
Just like many of the worlds' greatest foods, Genmaicha was created so the working class of Japan could afford tea. People would add toasted brown rice (which was cheap and plentiful) to whatever green tea they could afford to buy. What they created was almost a fusion of flavors that melded into a unique and delicious flavor.
Genmaicha is now a chic drink among the urban Japanese
A lot like food trucks or "hole in the wall" ethnic restaurants, Genmaicha is now a trendy drink. What was frowned upon 10 years ago, people are now finding cool to drink. But it isn't without reason. The tea has such a unique and universally loved flavor that people were willing to overlook the stereotype and enjoy this wonderful tea.
Is that popcorn?
No, it is actually popped rice. Sometimes when the rice is toasted it "pops," just like a kernal of popcorn does. But the flavor is still the toasty flavor of puffed rice that makes Genmaicha great.
Be careful when you brew it
If you are using a high quality Genmaicha, be sure to only steep it for a minute or two. If you oversteep this tea then it will lose its delicate balance of the green and nutty flavors. Also be sure to use only 180 degree water when you brew it, otherwise it could become quite bitter.
Just because Genmaicha was invented as a low cost way to drink tea, don't make the mistake of thinking that this tea is somehow sub par. Some of the best dishes in the world have been created out of a need for low cost food. Pasta, stews, Chinese Stir-Fry and Escargot were all created for the same reason. And, if you don't trust me, try and convince a French chef that Escargot is somehow an unsophisticated food to eat.
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