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Popcorn tea

ShirakikuMy favorite part of the food section every week in the Chronicle is Taster’s Choice, where they compare broadly available products for quality. This week, stepping a bit out of the box, they compare brands of genmai cha, green tea with toasted rice kernels. Genmai happens to be my favorite tea, with the possible exception of lapsang souchong, although for entirely different reasons. I like green tea generally, but the addition of the toasted rice rounds out the grassy, astringent notes and makes it more balanced and satisfying.

Because the rice sometimes pops in the toasting process, making little white puffs, a friend of mine refers to it as popcorn tea, and the comparison is apt both in appearance and flavor.

The Chron picks Shirakiku. I guess I have a trip to 99 Ranch in my near future.

Taster’s Choice: Genmai cha

  • anita

    We made our egular 99 Ranch pilgrimage today, and tried to surpise you with a box of Shirakiku… to no avail. We did find a big honkin’ empty space on the shelf — apparently the word is out.

  • I’m trying to track down some of this brand online, but so far, no luck. 99 Ranch, is that a local store in San Francisco? I’m way over on the other end of the country, in Michigan. But I must have this tea. It may be my only hope in the battle against the delicious.. delicious.. coffee addiction. It will have to be some really really good-tasting green tea.
    Any alternative suggestions for awesome genmaicha, that I can order online? You would be my hero.

  • A little Googling turned up one online source: http://www.pacificeastwest.com/07441000980.html. I was a little surprised to see Amazon carrying a lot of Shirikaku product, but no genmai cha. Whatev. I found someone’s site touting another brand, Maeda-En, but don’t know whether that’s any easier to find. (However, they have their own online store: http://www.maeda-en.com/store/index.cgi) Other brands of genmai cha are pretty readily available these days, so if you can find any kind locally, I’d go for it to test it out and see if it’s to your taste. I have the luxury of living in a place with a substantial Asian community — 99 Ranch is a chain of Asian grocery stores here in NorCal — and a whole Japantown, so I can pick the stuff up anytime.
    Good luck!