The Tea Detective
Uncovering and Exploring the Facts About Tea
Genmaicha - The People's Tea
Both Yesterday and Today
In the 1920's an entrepreneurial tea merchant came up with the idea to make
a new type of tea by mixing grains of roasted brown rice with the lesser grade
bancha leaf, calling it genmaicha (genmai=unpolished brown rice  cha=tea).
Genmaicha was a clever use
of the two commodities cen-
tral to Japanese lives, rice
and tea.  Called the "people's tea" be-
cause it was originally drunk by the peasant
class, who could ill afford most of the
expensive
Japanese teas.  

The addition of rice made the tea more
affordable, stretching it out and making it go
further and last longer.

In English genmaicha means "rice tea," but
it also goes by the names "brown rice tea,
and "popcorn tea," because of the small
amount of rice that pops during processing,
resembling popped corn.

                                     Both bancha and lower grade sencha can be used to make genmaicha,
                                     but most is made from bancha leaves.  Bancha is a common class of
                                     tea, plucked following the first and second flush of sencha.

                                     Bancha grows everywhere sencha does, in all three of Japan's major
                                     tea growing regions,
Uji, Shizuoka, and Kyushu on Honshu Island.

                                     Both sencha and bancha are
sun grown teas, and both grow on the
                                     same bush.  The sencha leaves are the first to emerge and are smaller
                                     and more tender than the larger, tougher bancha leaves which begin
                                     to grow 15 to 20 days after the sencha leaves have been harvested.

After the first sencha harvest has been
plucked, bancha follows.  The sencha
leaves regrow for a second sencha har-
vest, followed by a second bancha har-
vest, etc., for three harvests each, which
is ideal for the healthiest and most vigor-
ous new sencha harvest the following
spring.

By the time bancha is ready for harvest,
the leaves have lost most of their amino
acid compounds, and most of the milder,
smoother tasting polyphenols, replaced
by poorer, more harsh ones, giving the
tea more of a bite and sharper lemony
flavor and a lighter bodied tea.

          Bancha is processed the same way as sencha, using the fukamushi method of deep
          steaming, giving the leaves an additional 30 seconds of steam.  But whereas the tender
          sencha leaves break up into fine, thin filaments, the tougher bancha leaves remain
          whole.

                                              After being steam fixed the bancha leaves go through several
                                              stages of rolling before the rice is added and then it is finish dried
                                              in an oven.

                                              Sometimes
matcha is added to genmaicha, covering the leaf and
                                              rice with a fine green powdery coating.  The tea is then called
                                              matcha genmaicha.

                                              Genmaicha may have started out in the 1920's being a poor
                                              people's brew, but today it is favored by most everyone.  It has
                                              found a following among the Japanese elite and has caught the
                                              attention of the West as a natural,
healthy tea.

          The roasted rice mellows the bitterness and astringency of
          the lower grade bancha leaf and the result is a light and
          grassy, slightly lemony flavor with sweet, nutty roasted un-
          dertones.

          The addition of matcha to the genmaicha gives you a little
          stronger flavor and a brighter green liquid.  Both genmaicha
          and matcha genmaicha give you a nice and relaxing com-
          pletely enjoyable cup of tea, to be slowly sipped and savored.  
Enjoy.
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