homemade genmaicha–toasted rice tea

by Chen

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For you if you ever feel impressed by the tea served in most Japanese restaurants, the tea that tastes like popcorn.

Whoever came up with the combination of toasted rice and green tea was a genius. The nutty and slightly smoky rice compliments the refreshing but somewhat monotone green tea so well, and the flavor lingers for a while after a sip. Besides toasty and savory, the tea is incredibly smooth, which might be a bonus from from the starch in the rice.

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Speaking of making the tea, the only elaborate part is toasting the rice. It takes some time to get golden brown and fragrant, but once the rice reaches the right stage, it burns quickly. Thus, watching closely is the key. Some people suggest that the rice should be cooked, cooled, and dried before toasting so that it will popped up like breakfast cereal. I skip this part. It’s true that my rice doesn’t look like cereal; however, the flavor is not affected at all.

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toasted rice tea (aka genmaicha or 玄米茶)
Japanese sencha is fantastic in this recipe since it is already on the “richer” side among green teas. Feel free to use any tea you have or like.

white rice
loose-leaf green tea (see headnotes)
boiling water

Rinse the rice under running water. Shake off the excess water. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the rice to the skillet and spread out in a single layer. The kernels stick together when they are wet but will separate afterwards. Keep stirring until the rice is golden brown and smells toasty but not burnt. This may take about 10 minutes. If the rice browns unevenly, turn down the heat or lift the skillet up and stir and stir.

Let the toasted rice cool before mixing with the tea. To brew the tea, mix the toasted rice and tea leaf to the ratio you prefer (mine is 1:1). For each tsp of tea mixture, steep in 1/2 cup boiling water and let it sit for 3-5 minutes. Adjust the amount of water or tea to taste.

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