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.
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.
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