Japanese Green Tea with Toasted Rice : Genmaicha

Andy explores toasted notes and green tea.

When I cook, I am always amazed at how some of the most harmonious flavor combinations arise by fusing seemingly incompatible ingredients. Strawberries and balsamic vinegar, blue cheese and honey, mangoes and cayenne pepper—all of these flavorful groupings work surprisingly well together. In perfumery, classical genres like chypre and fougère juxtapose fresh notes of citrus or herbs with rich woods, moss, and amber to create an exciting fragrant impression. Even in tea, where olfactory and gustatory pleasures meet, harmonious contrasts make for some of the most interesting and popular teas. Such is the case with Genmaicha, a Japanese green tea that blends the savory aroma of toasted brown rice with the freshness and delicacy of Sencha.

genmaicha

When you first open up a package of Genmaicha, the incredible fragrance immediately hits you. The scent of Genmaicha combines grassy sweetness with toasty richness, a cue to the exquisite flavor of the tea, as well as the unique ingredients. Unlike most teas, Genmaicha consists of a steamed green tea (usually Sencha, an early harvest green tea, or Bancha, a lower grade, later harvest tea) combined with kernels of toasted brown rice. Oftentimes, some of these kernels pop during roasting, resulting in pieces that look like popcorn mixed into your tea.

One of the most appealing aspects of brewing tea is the wonderful aroma and this is especially true of Genmaicha. It is best when brewed by pouring moderately hot water (170° F/75° C) over a heaping teaspoon of the tea, and allowing the tea to infuse for three minutes. Throughout the process, the fragrance of this tea, with its savory and fresh facets, perfumes the air beautifully. In fact, Genmaicha is among the teas whose scents I wish could be bottled, and if you’ve never tried this tea before, I’m sure you will agree once you have tasted it.

The flavor of Genmaicha is complex and addictive. The first time I bought Genmaicha, mostly on a whim, I was shocked to find that I loved the tea, and seemed to want it all the time. Part of the reason for this, I suspect, is the unique and satisfying taste. The flavor is multifaceted, as it is grassy and fresh, but also full-bodied and assertive.  The taste of the roasted brown rice brings out the natural sweetness of the green tea, just as the green tea serves as a contrast to the rice, accentuating its savory richness. Genmaicha marries the tea and rice together in perfect harmony, with each bringing out the best of the other. As a result, Genmaicha tastes refreshing and satisfying at the same time. It is neither too light nor too heavy, and works well at any time of the day.

genmaicha1

Genmaicha also works very well alongside food, pairing well with main dishes. This tea can be served either hot or cold, and is delicious either way. Lately, the weather where I live has been vacillating between cold and unseasonably warm, which gave me a good opportunity to try Genmaicha both hot and iced. As I expected, the tea was as refreshing and quenching on a hot day as it is cozy and warming on a cold day. If you have never tried Genmaicha before, I can’t recommend it highly enough. With its perfect fusion of bright green tea and rich toasted rice, it is truly an all-purpose beverage, suited to any occasion, mood, or time, and sure to please.

I recently have tested three Genmaichas: One from Art of Tea, and another two from Aiya. Compared to the ones from Aiya, the the one from Art of Tea did not seem as balanced, with the toasted rice flavor dominating a little too much for my taste. Both of the teas from Aiya were excellent, though. I especially recommend their Matcha Infused Genmaicha, which adds matcha, powdered green tea, to the mix. The result is an even more intense flavor experience, as well as a beautiful pale green color to the brewed tea.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Enjoyed this? Get blog posts via email:

Or, stay updated via:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • RSS

30 Comments

  • Ari: Genmaicha is AMAZING. I’m lucky enough to live near a restaurant called Chocolatea with lots of great teas (though not much chocolate, strangely!) and genmaicha is my favorite discovery from there. Thank you for the recommendations, Andy, and for the gorgeous pictures, V! June 4, 2013 at 9:38am Reply

    • Andy: I know, isn’t Genmaicha just great? Genmaicha is one of my very favorite tea finds as well. As usually happens when I read about anything remotely edible, I’m craving some right now! June 4, 2013 at 3:39pm Reply

  • Liz K: One of my all time favorite teas! I first encountered it when I was planning my wedding. My mother and I visited the home of the couple who ultimately became our wedding photographers and she served us this delicious tea. When we asked about it she replied “I don’t know what it is really called because I am Korean and my husband is Chinese and neither of us really speak much Japanese”. They had received some as a gift and just taken the package to a Japanese market and requested more. She did insist on sending us home with an unopened package so we could make it in our hotel room (destination wedding) and easily identify it to purchase later.
    Genmaicha is the perfect thing to get me through the afternoon slump without snacking. I usually just buy whatever looks freshest at the oriental grocery, which is most often Ujinotsuyu, but will seek out the Aiya. June 4, 2013 at 10:33am Reply

    • Andy: I remember you sharing this lovely story with me before as well, and both times I enjoyed reading it. I agree, genmaicha is a great, satisfying way to avoid crashing or snacking too much (both of which I am prone to) in the afternoon. June 4, 2013 at 3:47pm Reply

      • Liz K: Yikes. Sorry to have double posted this. I try not to be like my father – telling the same story over and over. Guess I fail 😉 June 4, 2013 at 6:09pm Reply

        • Andy: No, please don’t apologize–I loved reading it again! Plus, it was especially relevant to the topic. I really enjoy reading personal anecdotes like this! June 4, 2013 at 6:19pm Reply

  • iodine: Genmaicha! I love it too! I generally buy it in a tiny Japanese restaurant and shop close to my house and it never fails to be as you describe it- perfect in very occasion.
    Talking about savoury teas, I tasted some years ago- in France- a tea from Thailand (or Vietnam, I can’t remember) with some kind of dry rice leaves and its flavour was really unusual and intriguing…
    What a beautiful cup, BTW! June 4, 2013 at 10:45am Reply

    • Andy: I love savory teas as well. Another one I am particularly fond of is Hojicha, which to me fits the same niche (in terms of suiting any time or occasion) as Genmaicha. The tea that you have described, with dried rice leaves, sounds amazing too!

      And I too love that cup in Victoria’s photo–such a pretty finish. June 4, 2013 at 3:52pm Reply

  • axum: I’ve grown up with genmaicha – it’s the smell of home and family. Whenever I sample a fragrance with ‘tea’ notes, it’s really genmaicha that I’m looking for, and I am always disappointed. I wish a perfumer would try to reproduce it…especially a perfumer with a lifelong familiarity with its smell and all the different quality grades of genmaicha. I guess such a perfumer would likely be Japanese…well anyway, I’d love to wear that perfume. June 4, 2013 at 12:38pm Reply

    • Andy: It’s truly lovely to hear that Genmaicha occupies an emotional space for you, reminding you of your family. And I agree with you wholeheartedly, I would just love to find a genmaicha perfume. I can just imagine the comfort of being surrounded by the toasty, warm scent. In the meantime, we can always dream… June 4, 2013 at 3:56pm Reply

  • Andrea: Perfect chawan combination! Fantastic light in the photos! Love the post.
    Are you planning to post about Mugicha if/when the heat wave comes? June 4, 2013 at 3:23pm Reply

    • Andy: I know, aren’t V’s photos just gorgeous? I love the cup, as well as the Japanese newsprint underneath it all. I’ve actually never tried mugicha, but I’ve been wanting to taste it, and I’m sure I would love it, since I love iced teas. June 4, 2013 at 4:03pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I’ve only once tried Genmaicha. I remember liking but not loving it. It was a long time ago and tastes do evolve. Clearly I need to try it again! Thanks for another lovely post on tea. June 4, 2013 at 3:48pm Reply

    • Andy: Do try Genmaicha again. Even if you find that you still don’t love it, it’s definitely true that tastes evolve a lot over time. I know I used to never like assertive black teas like Assams, but now they are among my favorites. June 4, 2013 at 4:05pm Reply

      • Austenfan: I do really like Hojicha. I just need to get some Genmaicha from a good shop. There is a tea shop in Brussels that apparently sells excellent Japanese teas.
        I recently got some Tamaryokucha. I find it very interesting, but it does remind me slightly of seaweed. June 4, 2013 at 4:14pm Reply

        • Andy: I love Hojicha too. I haven’t ever tried Tamaryokucha though. Even still, I can totally imagine the association with seaweed, because, after several infusions, most Japanese green teas start to taste “ocean-y,” to me. As fascinating as it is to get that sea-like flavor from a tea, I usually stop drinking at that point and refresh the tea I’m using, because It just doesn’t strike me as totally appealing. June 4, 2013 at 6:16pm Reply

  • Daisy: I love genmaicha. It is absolutely one of my favorites and it’s so nice to read your thoughts on it. Thank you so much, Andy! June 4, 2013 at 5:05pm Reply

    • Andy: Glad to find yet another fan of genmaicha! I think it may even have become one of my very favorite teas. Then again, it’s so hard for me to pick favorites when it comes to tea. June 4, 2013 at 6:11pm Reply

  • Victoria: Andy, I wanted to email this to you, but then I thought that maybe others will find it interesting too. Look, a genmaicha tea pilaf recipe:
    http://food52.com/recipes/20889-genmaicha-pilaf

    I probably would use regular brown rice instead of Bhutanese, but tea instead of vegetable or chicken stock is an interesting possibility. Plus, genmaicha tastes so savory. June 4, 2013 at 6:28pm Reply

    • Andy: I’m interested in trying this, thank you for sharing the link. And thanks for the suggestion to swap out brown rice for the Bhutanese red rice. I wouldn’t have known what would make an appropriate substitute for that. June 4, 2013 at 7:20pm Reply

  • Hannah: What is that pottery style called? I have a set of two but I don’t know if I’ll be bringing them with me when I move out so I want to replace them for my apartment.
    Anyway, I like genmaicha.
    One of my exchange students brought some kind of green tea as a gift. The flavor was very strong and astringent. I loved it but my family and everyone I shared it with hated it. I think it may have been konacha after looking around the internet. June 5, 2013 at 12:06am Reply

    • Andy: I don’t know about the pottery style, since the photos are Victoria’s, but I agree that the glaze on that cup is striking! And if the tea you’re describing was Japanese, I would guess the same; Since konacha is composed of smaller pieces of tea leaves, its flavor tends to be stronger. June 5, 2013 at 8:22pm Reply

  • Sandra: Wonderful read Andy on one of my favorite teas! I love iced green tea in the summer. Thank you for the recommendation on genmaicha with matcha. Hmmm… June 5, 2013 at 7:00am Reply

    • Andy: Iced tea is my favorite drink in the summer, next to, perhaps, Victoria’s recipe for melon seed horchata, which I made today. I really love the variation of genmaicha blended with matcha–it’s just enough matcha to coat the tea in a film of green “dust,” but it impacts the flavor greatly. June 5, 2013 at 8:24pm Reply

  • Pamela: I, too, enjoy genmaicha but I’ve never steeped it for three minutes. To each his own, but that seems awfully long to me and would bring out the tannic flavors. June 5, 2013 at 5:01pm Reply

    • Andy: At a fairly low water temperature like 170 degrees F, I’ve never had an issue with Genmaicha tea tasting overstepped or bitter, even when left to brew for 3 minutes, which is pretty much the longest I ever steep green teas for. But you are right, personal taste is so important when brewing tea! June 5, 2013 at 8:26pm Reply

  • Claire: Genmaicha is the workhorse tea in my household. I drink it with breakfast, serve it to guests when they are visiting or even with dinner. This is what I think one of the “savory” tea, perfect to pair with dishes, just like you said! I also think that this is one of the tea that can be re-steeped so many times; as the green tea becomes more tannic, its taste becomes more robust, perfect to cut through those rich/buttery meals. I’ve never tried those brands that you mentioned, but I’ll be on the look out for them. Most of my Japanese tea comes from this Japanese company “Sa.” Their sencha and genmaicha are very nice. Thank you for a wonderful article, Andy! June 6, 2013 at 11:04am Reply

    • Andy: I see genmaicha very much the same way you do, as an all-purpose tea. With its savory flavor, I agree, it’s perfect to accompany a meal. June 6, 2013 at 3:50pm Reply

  • dp: My favorite part of drinking this tea is the steeping part – watching the brew develop and letting the steam do its slow dance out of the pot. Being an aroma-girl, I breathe it in as I sip it, to get a full experience. Hard to fully enjoy in the company of others who just drink it! 🙂

    I do have one question: I’ve never been able to find a decaf version. I’d love to share this, and some other green varietals with my Dad, but he must have the decaf edition of everything. Suggestions? June 12, 2013 at 8:04am Reply

    • Andy: I know exactly what you mean. When I have anyone over at home, I always offer tea, but there is somewhat of a misunderstanding sometimes with first-time guests. Most expect me to boil some water and plop in a tea bag, but I like to pull out all the proper wares and make it an enjoyable experience. Usually, they like being served so much though, that in subsequent visits they learn to slow down and enjoy it my way. 😉

      And, sorry to say, I’ve never heard of a decaf version of genmaicha either. I know that Art of Tea has a lot of decaf green tea blends, but I haven’t tried any of them. Most large tea companies will have a nice decaf selection, though, so I’d recommend looking on the web at your favorite tea company’s site first. June 13, 2013 at 5:52pm Reply

What do you think?

From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Victoria in The Secret of Scent or Adventures in Provence: No, I didn’t know it, but I approve (on principle; from an economic perspective, I don’t know if it makes sense.) There are small bookstores around Brussels, but they’re very… December 9, 2016 at 4:43pm

  • Victoria in Asya’s Idea of Paradise: Very glad to hear it. 🙂 December 9, 2016 at 4:41pm

  • Victoria in Asya’s Idea of Paradise: Is it the one that looks like a bell? If so, I remember tasting it a couple of times, and what I loved even more than the taste was texture.… December 9, 2016 at 4:40pm

  • Maria in Asya’s Idea of Paradise: I don’t think so, but I’m not sure about it. I promise you next time I will see them I will inhale leur aroma. There was also an exotic fruit… December 9, 2016 at 4:23pm

Latest Tweets

Design by cre8d
© Copyright 2005-2016 Bois de Jasmin. All rights reserved.