Genmaicha is a steamed green tea with a special toasty flavor. It can be quite sweet with a delightfully nutty taste as well.
What is unique about Genmaicha is that is blended with fire-toasted rice. There is a natural sweetness to the tea as well as an almost chewy character to its finish.
When the rice for the tea is fired, it is not uncommon for some of it to “pop” not unlike popcorn. This is why you will sometimes hear Genmaicha referred to as “popcorn-tea”.
Genmaicha derives its name from an old legend. It is said that during the 1400’s, a high-ranking samurai warlord in Hakone, which is located on the Izu Peninsula of Honshu Island, was taking tea early in the morning while discussing battle strategies with his subordinates. During this, a servant who went by the name of Genamai was in the process of serving the hot tea.
When Genamai leaned over to give tea to the warlord, some rice that he had secretly taken for a morning snack fell out of his garment and directly into the steaming hot tea. Some of the rice popped when it hit the hot tea!
The warlord was extremely angry and leapt up. Brandishing his sword, he promptly cut poor Genamai down in one stroke before sitting back down to return to his strategy meeting.
Distracted from his anger by the meeting, the warlord drank the rice-filled tea without noticing, yet immediately found the flavor of the tea quite unique and to his liking. To honor Genamai, who had inadvertently created this flavor, the warlord made notice that the blend of rice and tea should be served every morning and forever be called “Genmaicha”, with ‘cha’ being the Japanese term for ‘tea’.
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