May 2024 - Genmaicha from Kyoto, Nara and Shiga

This May, Tomotcha delights tea enthusiasts with a special Genmaicha made from Kabusecha and locally sourced rice, accompanied by a cultural exploration of Japan’s beloved Hanami tradition.

This May, Tomotcha takes you on a flavorful journey with a unique blend of Genmaicha (玄米茶), combining the delicate shades of Kabusecha (かぶせ茶) with the nutty richness of roasted rice from the picturesque prefectures of Kyoto (京都), Nara (奈良), and Shiga (滋賀).



Genmaicha, sometimes called "popcorn tea," is a traditional Japanese tea that combines the fresh grassiness of green tea with the toasty, slightly caramel-like flavor of puffed rice. The version crafted for this month’s selection is particularly special, using Kabusecha —a shade-grown tea that is covered for a period before harvest to boost its flavor and caffeine content— as its base.

The process of making Genmaicha begins with selecting the finest green tea leaves. These leaves are then skillfully blended with roasted rice, which may include both whole grains and popped grains that resemble popcorn, hence the nickname. The roasting of the rice imparts a warm, nutty flavor that beautifully counters the bitterness of the green tea, resulting in a balanced cup that is both soothing and invigorating. This unique combination of ingredients celebrates both agriculture and artisanal craftsmanship.


The Hanami Tradition

Hanami (花見), meaning "flower viewing," is a cherished Japanese tradition that celebrates the fleeting beauty of the cherry blossoms, or sakura (桜). This practice, which involves gathering under blooming cherry trees to enjoy food, drinks, and the company of friends and family, is a highly anticipated event that symbolizes the transient nature of life.

The tradition of Hanami stretches back over a thousand years, and today it is celebrated with as much fervor as ever. People flock to parks, spreading out their picnic blankets under the canopy of cherry blossoms to enjoy the spectacular views. Tea (and alcohol...) plays a significant role in these gatherings, providing a perfect complement to the festive atmosphere of Hanami.


This year I enjoyed a Hanami by night in the beautiful Tō-ji temple (東寺), located in the heart of Kyoto. The temple is famous for its five-storied Pagoda, the tallest wooden tower in Japan. It is also famous for its gardens, meticulously maintained, that make Tō-ji a perfect spot for contemplating the cherry blossom, despite the crowd!


Brewing Genmaicha

The quantity of tea leaves should be adjusted based on the preferred taste; approximately 5 grams of Genmaicha is ideal for 150 ml (5 oz) of spring water. The steeping time should last about thirty seconds in water heated to 95ºC (205ºF). The second and third steepings should be shorter than the first.