Thursday, September 19, 2013

O-cha is Tea

The tea of Japan is green tea, but it comes in a zillion different varieties. When I went to Japan in 2011, I knew sencha was the regular old green tea, which was not always completely green, but definitely tea. Then there is "matcha", which doesn't really have a "t" in the middle, so much as a tiny pause/tsu before the cha part. I knew matcha was the good stuff, the tea ceremony stuff, the GREEN stuff. The tea that is put into soft serve ice cream, cake, sauces, candy, good stuff. So, I went up to the store clerk and asked desperately for matcha.
"Matcha? Do you have matcha? Matcha."
What I ended up with was genmaicha. I only figured it out with I got home and found weird little brown specks in with my dried green leafy parts.
This was not matcha! This was not powdered, clearly, but what about the taste? I tried it and it was so far from sencha or matcha that I dismissed it as terrible and put it away. I found out this "genmaicha" had brown rice in with the tea leaves. Rice tea? That's madness!

 But it's been in my pantry for a while, and might as well give it another go. I was a little inspired by this guy, a Japan foodie and tea lover. He makes all sorts of ooh-ing and ah-ing over such unknown-to-me tea as fukamushi, which is like extra roasted sencha but in a rich, flavorful way. Maybe I need to broaden my tea horizon if I'm visiting Japan next month. I give it another go.

The directions clearly state that you need a kettle and ....spoon...and....probably water... Why can't Rikaichan work in real life?
I enlisted the assistance of an expert tea drinker and friend, and we went with not-quite-boiling water poured into a tea straining apparatus.
Quickly, it is becoming tea!
Into the mug it strains pure tea goodness. Or liquid death. Which is it?
The reality is, it does indeed taste like rice in a subtle green tea way. It wasn't that bad, actually, but it did seem to be a bit soup-like in flavor. My friend suggests pouring it over tea, and I plan to do so soon.

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