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Genmaicha Popcorn Tea from Japan

by Bob Kerstetter

During a business trip to Japan, our Japanese friend took us to a tea shop selling hundreds of different types of teas. She purchased several for us to try. Back in Texas, when we opened a tea package, tea leaves and something else greeted us. The something else — short brown and occasionally looking like popcorn — was roasted rice. We were being treated to genmaicha, or popcorn tea. The kanji for genmaicha is 玄米茶, literally meaning:

In daily use, the less exotic name is brown rice tea.


Genmaicha, or brown rice tea, mixes roasted rice with green tea. It creates a delicious pale tea with a refreshing nutty flavor and very little caffeine. The name popcorn tea comes from the popped grains of rice visible in the photo.

Genmaicha originated among the Japanese poor people who added roasted rice to tea leaves to make the tea go further.

A more fun story of origins says an unfortunate servant of a rash samurai accidentally added several grains of roasted rice to his master’s green tea. After the offended samurai beheaded his servant as punishment, he tasted the tea, grieved for his own foolish behavior and repented by naming the tea for his now dead servant, whose name was Genmai. Cha, of course, is Japanese for tea.

To enjoy this tea, you place genmaicha into a pot. Add water brought to boiling then cooled to 80-85 degrees C, or 176-185 degrees F. Let the tea brew for 60 seconds, pour into cups, then drink.

The taste is light and nutty. The color is pale yellowish brown. Caffeine content is low, so you can sleep after drinking genmaicha.

For more information, see this article on Genmaicha at In Pursuit of Tea.

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