Today I would like to talk about a story that I have heard from a Japanese tea artisan in Shizuoka.
It was a story back in the 1920s in Tokyo.
There was a tea store in center of Tokyo where a young lady from Niigata prefecture was working. It was a family owned small tea store, and she was working as a employee and also as a house maid (this working style was quite normal at this time in Japan and was called “Jyochu-san”). She was a very hard working young lady and the owner’s son has fell in love with this young lady. They have started to date each other and as time passed, they decided to get married.
Everybody who worked at the tea store was very happy about there marriage. The owner have decided to go Niigata to meet her parents to introduce himself and see what kind of family she was brought up by. Yes, the parents meeting the parents…
Niigata prefecture is a very famous area for making one of the top quality rices in Japan. The people in this area were not wealthy and did not have the custom to drink green tea (green tea was a drink for the rich ones back then). On the other hand, they roasted brown rice with a pan and drank it by pouring hot water into it, a local rice tea.
The family of this young lady was very anxious to meet the owner and went out to the city center of Niigata to purchase some green tea for this special occasion. The young lady’s family was very frugal and since green tea was expensive they’ve used a small amount of tea leaf and added some roasted brown rice to make the tea. This tea was served to the tea store owner and said “Umai-cha-da!(meaning What a Tasteful Tea!)” The owner was extremely delighted with the taste and happy to discover something new about tea. After he went back to Tokyo, he made this tea and named it Gemaicha (Genmai meaning brown rice and cha meaning tea). It sold out very well and was spread by the word of mouth and became a very popular tea in Japan.
Yes, it has started out from the small country side of Niigata prefecture…a local rice tea being mixed with sencha green tea. Maybe if the family wasn’t being that frugal, it might not been mixed with the roasted brown rice. The tea store owner has always told the people that he was truly blessed to have the best daughter-in-law that lead him the way to meet this new tea.
There are many stories about the origin of Genmaicha. This will be one of the stories that is passed on in Shizuoka.
Hope you enjoyed. Thank you:)