The first time I heard about Genmai Cha (or Genmaicha) and what it was, I thought “Neat, tea with popcorn!” I thought many others would be just as excited by the combination of flavors as I was. Alas, they were not. Other than John, I’ve yet to meet another person who isn’t intimidated or grossed-out by the thought of this delicious popcorn tea.
If you’re one of those that are afraid of trying this tea, I say, get over it. The worst that will happen is that you’ll be left with a yucky taste in your mouth.
Genmai Cha is a tea made with popped rice and corn, or just rice. It was created by Japanese peasants to stretch their tea stashes.
“Unlike the affordable luxury it had become today, tea was historically a pricy commodity. The Japanese peasants found it difficult to afford much tea, and would mix it with roasted rice, which was abundant and cheap. Thus, they were able to squeeze more cups from the same amount of leaves.” (From Adagio.com)
There is also a Japanese legend about Genmai Cha:
“…During the 15th century, a servant named Genmai was serving his master, a samurai warrior, some tea when a few grains of rice accidentally fell out of his pocket and into the pot. The warrior was so infuriated that his servant had “ruined” a perfectly good cup of tea that he chopped off his head. He decided to drink the cup of tea anyway, and discovered that he enjoyed the distinct flavor of the tea and rice infusion. In honor of his poor servant, he insisted that this combination of tea and rice be served every morning and named it genmaicha (“cha” means tea in Japanese).” (From InPursuitofTea.com – This site also has some steeping tips, if you’re interested, at the bottom of the page.)
The flavor of this tea has been described most often as nutty. Nutty it is, my dear readers. Nutty it is. (What is wrong with me today? I’m writing like someone out of the 1800’s with a very strange vocabulary. The voice in my head while writing this isn’t even mine, it sounds like someone I would name Geeves. Anyway, now that I’ve made myself sound like a complete psychopath, let’s continue.)
Instead of talking about the flavors of the tea, which are delicious and remind me of eating puffed wheat cereal, I want to talk about how this tea makes me feel when I’m drinking it. Something about it makes me comfortable. It’s not just the warmth of the tea itself. Maybe the taste of cereal is something I attribute to my childhood, therefore am comforted by it.
Using green tea instead of a black tea keeps the flavor light. Drinking Genmai Cha makes me feel like I’m doing something good for my body—it’s probably the anti-oxidants going to my brain.
Something about this tea says, “Reflect. Sit, be still, and reflect.” I like to drink this without the television on. Without a lot of distraction. Maybe while reading a book. Doing something quiet. It’s a tea for quietude.
For a little extra zen in your day, check out this wallpaper. When I look at this photograph, I get a feeling of zen, serenity and a very quiet calm.