This week I’m excited to explore more of Japanese tea, in particular Genmaicha green tea. Many of you may have heard of this classic Japanese tea as ‘Popcorn tea’.
This unique tea is made up of green tea (Sencha or Bancha), roasted rice and often popcorn. This combination gives a lovely toasty, sweet rice flavour, which goes very well with food. In the past Genmaicha was really only drunk by the poor, who added the puffed rice to their tea to bulk it out as they could not afford pure Green Tea; however these days it is enjoyed by all echelons of society in Japan and increasingly throughout the world.
Our lovely Canton Genmaicha is made up of tea leaves of the Yabukita varietal grown Obubu Tea Garden in the Wazuka Prefecture region of Japan.
Compared to China (which has been producing tea for at least 4000 years) Japan is a relatively new tea producer. The plant (and drink) was introduced to Japan by Buddhist monks who had travelled to study in China in the eighth century; Buddhist monks in China had traditionally used tea to keep them awake and alert during meditation. However, it was not until the Zen monk Eisai began to teach that tea should be consumed for its medicinal properties in the twelfth century that tea began to catch on. Finally in the thirteenth century tea was adopted by the upper classes, intellectuals and the Samurai; since then Japan has never looked back and tea has been firmly adopted into their culture.
Japanese green tea has a very different character to Chinese green tea. The main reason for this is the Japanese policy of Sakoku during which Japan entirely isolated themselves from the rest of the world between the mid seventeenth and mid nineteenth centuries. This meant that Japanese processing techniques developed entirely independently of China. During this time the technique of steam processing the tea developed, which gives the tea its intense sweet and vegetal flavours.