I don't like houjicha, and I don't like genmaicha, but after seeing how wonderful Den's houji-kukicha was, I wanted to give this one a shot, too. Genmai translates to brown rice. It was a peasant drink. Rice was cheaper than tea, so the poor would use it as filler. Its typically comprised of roasted rice and bancha. But as I have discovered with oolong, roasting tea = awesomeness.
The aroma is simple: roasted, hint of green, popcorn. In that order.
You can prepare this tea however you like. It's idiot-proof. I have used boiling water for a ten minute steep with no astringency, bitterness, or yuckiness. Seriously, you can not fuck this up.
The liquor is very clear and pure. Looks like amber.
First infusion: The tea is thin but flavorful and filling. It tastes moderately roasted with a very sweet finish that I can taste in the back of my mouth. Very, very smooth, as smooth as water. It doesn't taste like genamicha to me, nor does it posses any characteristics of green tea.
Second infusion: Just as sweet as the first, but less over all flavor.
Third infusion: Sweeter but even less flavor.
I am enjoying these variations of houjicha. They offer a delightful departure from the the typical, though wonderful, profile of Japanese tea.
Because tea has always been for me a window into other cultures, and because my rapdily growing interest in Japanese tea inevitably goes hand in hand with my growing fondness for that particular culture, and finally beacuse I hoped that this themed week could offer a little more than just tea reviews, I will end each post this week with a brief review on either a book or a film that I think was particularly profound or revealing of Japanese culture, history or lifestyles.
James Clavell's Shogun was the very begining of my interest and love of Japan and the various facets of their culture and history. The book was among my father's things after he died; he was always fond of it, so I gave it a chance. I knew nothing of Japan at the time.
Ending with the Batle of Sekigahara, the unification of Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate, Shogun is a fictional story woven around the factual events that occured at the end of the Momoyama Period. Though names were changed, many of the primary and secondary characters are archetypes of historical figures such as Tokugawa Ieyasu, Hosokawa Tama, and of course William Adams, the first foreign samurai.
After borrowing the characters and the historical structure for the story, Clavell then bends or dismmises the facts in order to create a better story, much like legends of old, so first and foremost, Shogun is a story, a very entertaining and classic one, with elements of adventure, pirates, foreign lands and war, of samurai and ninja and courtesans, of life, death and love. Along the way the author eases the reader into Japanese culture. We are meant to take this journey with John Blackthorn (William Adams), seeing things at first as barbaric and incomprehensible, but as time goes by, become more objective and learn to appraise a foreign culture by their values and not merely by ours.
That which is different is not inherently wrong or inferior.