Tuesday, 12 January 2016

My genmaicha story

A brew of  genmaicha, its green color denotes freshness. 
Very few people and almost none of my tea drinking friends knew that besides the wide arrays of Chinese tea and TWG’s Silvermoon, genmaicha from Japan is among my favourite tea. Many thought that I do not like Japanese tea at all. I’ve often complained that I do not like the raw and grassy ultra-expensive gyokuro green tea and I gave low ratings for Sencha. Yet, those who have often heard me asking for Ippodo Genmaicha at Japanese fine dining establishments are equally puzzled.

I’ve never explain my liking for genmaicha but a gift of this tea from my neighbour today rekindled my memories of Kyoto in 2007 and how it all started. My friends and I were visiting Kinkakuji Temple and came across a traditional Japanese teahouse. The three of us asked for three different types of Japanese tea which we then shared. I can't remember which of the Japanese green that I asked for that day but I immediately took a liking to genmaicha after complaining of the rawness of the rest.

At Kinkakuji Temple, Kyoto, circa 2007.
I love its combination of fresh grassy flavour of green tea with the aroma of the roasted rice. Before we left, I asked the teahouse owner where to buy the tea that was just served to us. The owner scribble something in Japanese on a piece of paper which none of us can understand. However, after asking the staff at the ryokan that we were staying, we were led to the Ippodo Teahouse. I was later told by my Japanese friend that the Ippodo Teahouse is one of the oldest in Kyoto that sell premium Japanese green tea.

From my friends too, I learn that genmaicha (玄米茶) is sometimes referred to colloquially as "popcorn tea" because a few grains of the rice pop during the roasting process and resemble popcorn. This tea was invented by Zen monks who mixed green tea with the browned rice stuck to the bottom of their cauldrons and originally used for religious purposes. Subsequently, it became a popular tea by the masses because of its relatively cheaper price.

As the tea is best consumed fast while it is still fresh, like all other green tea from Japan, I seldom keep any genmaicha at home. I can’t finish the tea as fast as possible and after a few disappointments, I’ve decided that it is best to just have them whenever I get to have them. Lastly, many thanks to Aunty Lee Lian for the genmaicha, fresh all the way from Japan. It is a coincidence for prior to this, she never knew.

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