The tea

Pour a half portion into each cup first, then go around one more time to fill them up. My co-worker gave me these instructions as she poured 抹茶玄米茶, matcha genmaicha, into about a dozen porcelain cups. I filled the next set of cups carefully. She went on to explain that this technique ensures that the concentration of the brew is distributed more evenly to each cup. And so I learned at this job what felt like the art of tea, and I learned how to enjoy matcha genmaicha.

I was working in a school deep in the Chuugoku mountains of Japan. There, a traditional dance called kagura was practiced, shouts and songs could be heard coming from the baseball diamond, apples could be eaten fresh from the trees, and matcha genmaicha was served to every visitor. Matcha genmaicha has 3 ingredients: green tea leaves, roasted brown rice, and matcha (powdered green tea). The roasted brown rice softens the bitterness of the green tea, and the matcha adds a layer of richness. It’s warming in the winter and refreshing in the summer. It’s both grounding and invigorating, a perfect companion on any day.

Photo of matcha genmaicha with sakura wood scooper in tin with Spirited Away-themed cup to the side
The matcha makes this genmaicha powdery.

I fell in love with matcha genmaicha so much that when I moved out of Japan, I brought more than a couple of boxes with me. I didn’t know at the time that it was available outside Japan. I happened to find some even in Burnsville, Minnesota, at a local tea shop; that specific blend is pictured above, in a reused Lupicia tin.

The soak

Recently, at lunchtime, the thought of お茶漬け, chadzuke, popped into my head. I had leftover tuna mayo (tuna salad), which I normally eat with toasted bread, or sometimes with rice. I’m the kind of person who will eat the same kind of dish for lunch over and over, but I felt that my tuna mayo and rice was missing something. Certainly, to someone familiar with Japanese fast food, tuna mayo would be associated with convenience store onigiri rice balls stuffed with tuna mayo and wrapped with nori seaweed. As nori is currently difficult for me to acquire, I remembered my bottle of furikake rice seasoning with strips of nori. The furikake happened to be a furikake made specifically for chadzuke. So, with tuna mayo, rice, and furikake in hand, I decided to make chadzuke for lunch.

Chadzuke means soaking in tea. It is a dish made by pouring tea, usually green tea, onto rice, often with toppings. To my tuna mayo (tuna and mayonnaise), rice (steamed, white), and furikake (mainly: nori, rice cracker, and salt), I would add matcha genmaicha to make chadzuke.

Photo of in a bowl Photo of tuna salad added to the previous dish
Step 1. Add rice to bowl. Step 2. Add tuna mayo.
Photo of furikake added to dish Photo of tea added to dish
Step 3. Add furikake. Step 4. Pour the tea.
Photo of chadzuke with rice, tuna mayo, and furikake in bowl
Step 5. Mix until beautiful.

I did wonder if I was crazy for using tuna mayo in chadzuke, but I found that other people have done this. More common toppings might include pickled vegetables, umeboshi, fish, roe, etc. Tea can also be used in dishes other than chadzuke. You can swap out the rice for oats and cook them in a black tea to create a kind of porridge. See Natalie Tran a.k.a. communitychannel. Oatmeal with chai tea is one you may want to try.

The tuna mayo chadzuke was wonderful in flavor. It is a simple dish, but the ingredients blend well together, and the mayo and tea become a white soup that is a unique visual characteristic of the dish. I am thankful for matcha genmaicha and its flexibility, even with tuna mayo.

If you add tea to your next meal, let me know how it goes. Send me an email at