The World Is a Tea Party Presents: Your Guide to Japanese Teas – Teas G

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Click on each photo for name and any details:


More on Genmaicha (玄米茶)

Also called: “brown rice tea”, “popcorn tea”

Japanese green tea (usually bancha or more often sencha these days) with toasted rice (white, short-grain, not actual brown rice) added. The volume of rice to tea leaves is 50-50. It has less caffeine than most green teas and can be consumed right before bedtime without keeping you awake.

This style of tea, technically a flavored tea but so common that it is included here instead, is said to date back a century. It is supposed to be an evolution of old tea leaves being flavored with leftover kagami-mochi toasted rice cakes. As the tea grew more popular, toasted rice was used instead.

The liquid has a slightly nutty quality from the rice, which tends to temper the bitterness of the lower grade tea base. Good brands have few “popped” rice kernels. The cheaper kinds have so many that this tea has begun to be known as “popcorn tea” (a total misnomer).

Great with meals with oily or deep-fried foods. Started as a tea for poorer Japanese but is now enjoyed by all.

Use a higher temperature of water than is usual for Japanese green teas to infuse the rice fully.

See also Matcha-iri Genmaicha.

Types of genmaicha:

  • sencha genmaicha (煎茶玄米茶) made with sencha
  • houji genmaicha (ほうじ玄米茶) made with houjicha
  • gyokuro genmaicha (玉露玄米茶) made with gyokuro
  • matchairigenmaicha (抹茶入玄米茶) with matcha added to genmaicha

Click on each photo for details:


More on Gyokuro

Also called: “jade dew”, “precious jade dew”, “pearl dew”

Mostly grown in Kyoto and Fukuoka prefectures, though tiny amounts are also produced in Shizuoka as well. The bushes are shaded from the sun for about 3 weeks before harvest. This decreases the amount of bitterness-causing catechins in the leaves, lowers leaf photosynthesis, and increases the L-theanine amino acid and leaf sugars and flavanols, producing a sweeter, mouth watering tea flavor. Farmers also tend to fertilize the plants more (see Chagusaba on the Some Tea Terms page) and pluck off buds to force more nutrients into the leaves just below them (done for the higher grades). Only first flush leaves are used. The harvested leaves are rolled and dried in the sun or shade (not in a wok or oven). The liquid is not only sweet and delicate tasting but is soft on your palate and perfect as a light evening tea.

To infuse at its best: 140°F (60°C), 1-2 minutes. You might want to pre-heat your pot and cup to keep the liquid hot while you drink it (slowly to get all the distinct flavors).

Not all gyokuro, though, is created equal. The one shown here was quite bad. We tried to be kind when reviewing this tea, but the truth needs to be told. This is a very poor quality gyokuro, even for the price they are charging. You are better off paying a bit more to get a truly good version of this style of tea that is meant to be a true delight.

Gyokuro Varieties

Just a few of the variations of gyokuro offered by tea vendors (click on each photo for details):

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