Well, I must be dazed that it is June, because I am still drinking cups of Cinnamon Pu-erh (May’s Tea of the Month) when the weather is chilly and I need comforting. But when the sun peeks her yellow head out of the clouds then genmaicha makes it into pot. This tea is as good for Northern Hemisphere spring as it is for Southern Hemisphere Autumn. It’s a tea for changing seasons. A tea for new beginnings. Reassuring but not smothering. Elegant yet friendly.
I had developed a tea-friendship with genmaicha while we were living in Macau. I used to buy it in packets of tea bags at the local supermarket. But when we took a short trip to Japan, just before winter, my friendship blossomed into romance and I’ve been having a love affair with it ever since. I blame it on the once-a-month market in Kyoto we just happened to stumble upon while staying, wait for it, in a Shunkoin temple. The temple was established in 1590 and is run by Rev. Takafumi Kawakami, a very friendly, young guy who completed his studies in Arizona. I mean, to say the trip was idyllic is an understatement…..
But I digress. Back to the genmaicha. I spotted the tea at a busy stall – this time loose and stored in a huge bag that looked like it would provide a lifetime supply. Because it wasn’t in tea bags I could see the ingredient that made it taste so good – tiny brown flecks of roasted rice, some popped open like miniature clouds. I wasn’t sure I needed so much but I am very glad I bought the whole bag, I have been drinking it for about three years, have plenty left and it is the best I have ever tasted. If you don’t like green tea because you find it bitter then this is the tea for you. The rice gives it a nutty, earthy, sweeter, popcorn-like flavour. It is as warming and cleansing as any good green tea but the roasted rice adds a lovely extra dimension. It is great with meals, as it has a savoury feel to it, or to wake up to with breakfast.
When I drink genmaicha I can’t help but think about waking up on a futon, that surprising perspective of being so low to the ground, a thick and warm Japanese duvet on top of me. The air is a little cool, somehow green and sweet. Just like June mornings. This is the perfect tea for this time they refer to as a “shoulder season”. A tea for Japan, the country that has suffered so much lately and I will always hold in my heart. This is starting again tea.