The Legend of Genmaicha
Of all the tea stories and legends I’ve found on the web, one of the standing out (and questionable) is the legend of Genmai Cha.
The story goes this way: Back in Ancient Japan, a group of warlords were meeting to make war plans. Feeling parched, the hosting leader sent his servant to prepare some green tea for his guests.
Upon returning, the servant began to serve the assembled leaders. When serving his lord, however, some roasted rice that he was eating on earlier in the day fell out of his sleeve and into his lord’s teacup.
Enraged by the servant’s clumsiness and the subsequent loss of face, the warlord drew his sword and cut the poor servant’s head.
To demonstrate the heart of a warrior, the warlord made a show of drinking the contaminated beverage anyway. But rather than a foul taste, he found the resulting tea rather enjoyable – perhaps even covering up the fact that his tea was … possible somewhat stale.
He pulled aside another servant to ask what his poor colleague’s name was. “Genmai, my lord,” the trembling servant replied.
So, to pay tribute to his fallen servant, the warlord shared his delightful tea with the rest of his party, who enjoyed it just as immensely as did he – naming it Genmai Cha (“cha” meaning “tea”).
And as this band of warlords conquered Ancient Japan, they spread the delight of this delicious tea, with a bloody history, with them.
Problems in this story:
However, a few problems with this story emerge:
First, for what reason would a warlord name a drink after an insignificant servant? It would bode well to give the credit to his power and fame-hungry self, no?
What's more, and probably more practically, the word “Genmai” actually means “brown rice” in Japanese – so what are the odds that somebody who happened to have the silly name as Brown Rice would happen to be munching on brown rice, and accidentally drop some of said brown rice into the teacup of his master?
It’s substantially more likely that it was named Genmai Cha (“Brown Rice Tea”) not on account of a measly servant, but rather of the fact that it is composed of brown rice and tea.