After our first dinner at Kaiyu, the lovely eco-lodge at Cape Ashizuri on rural Shikokku Island, Japan, our host, Mistuhiro Okada, brewed us a delicious tea. It had a comforting, deep taste reminiscent of dark roast coffee but earthier tasting.
The tea turned out to be made from roasted black soybeans – 焙煎された黒大豆 in kanji (according to the Babylon English-to-Japanese online translation site).
Black soybeans are called kuromame in Japanese – so the tea brewed from the roasted beans is called kuromame cha. It’s caffeine free, provides a number of health benefits – and I highly recommend it to you as a satisfying and pleasant tasting beverage. You can even eat the beans after they plump up in the brewing process.
To make tea from roasted black soybeans, simply pour boiling water over 1-2 tablespoons of them in a mug and let them steep about 10 minutes. I put the beans in a tea strainer that fits into the top of a mug so I can easily remove the plumped up beans to eat as a snack or for another use.
Bags of roasted black soybeans can be found at Japanese and Asian food stores. This is an example of what a bag of them looks like:
If you’re unable to find roasted black soybeans available nearby, you could order them online. Here’s an organic version of them available on a site called Wawaza: Traditional Japanese Products.
The package looks like this:
The product description says:
100% organic Japanese roasted black soybean tea (“Kuromame cha”). Commonly consumed by Japanese for weight loss and for maintaining health.
Also, the beans become soft after brewing and make for a delicious, healthy snack after your cup of tea!
Black soybeans, a rare legume, are a known source of compounds called isoflavone and anthocyanin. Scientific studies have linked their use to:
- Weight loss
- Promotion of lipid metabolism (breaking down fats)
- Cancer prevention
- Lowering cholesterol
- Reducing risk of postmenopausal arteriosclerosis
Savory aroma of roasted beans with a mildly sweet taste.
100 grams (3.5 oz) in resealable, moisture-proof bag. Makes about 40 cups.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF KURAMAME (Oshima, 2002)
Black soybeans have traditionally been used in Chinese medicine to clear toxins from the body and promote urination. In Japanese folklore, the bean also cures a sore throat.
Preliminary studies suggest the black soybean offers a variety of useful health benefits.
Animal researchers at Shizuoka Prefectural University showed that the black soybean surpasses the yellow soybean in preventing menopausal symptoms. Rats who became menopausal when their ovaries were removed had a significantly higher decline in their blood-cholesterol levels when fed black soybeans vs yellow soybeans. At the end of four weeks, the blood cholesterol of the black soybean group was up to 31 percent lower than a group fed no soybeans. The yellow soybean group was only 16 percent lower at most.
The researchers suspect the substances responsible for this difference reside in the black soybean’s hull.
Black soybeans contain anthocyanin, a polyphenol found in high concentrations in blueberries and raspberries. Anthocyanin is an antioxidant which helps neutralize unstable oxygen molecules that are damaging to cells.
There is also anecdotal evidence that the black soybean’s seed coat contains something that decreases blood pressure among hypertensive patients, lowers blood-sugar levels among diabetics and even reverses graying hair.
Japanese folklore has it that black soybean tea is beneficial for chronic diseases such as hypertention, diabetes and osteoporosis
It has long been known that all varieties of soybeans are a good source of protein. They are now attracting medical interest worldwide for their potential to prevent serious diseases, including heart disease and cancer.
KURAMAME (BLACK SOYBEANS) IN JAPANESE CUISINE
Traditionally, kuromame, are eaten cooked with sugar and soy sauce as part of a celebratory New Year’s feast called osechi ryori. Osechi ryori consists of many colorful dishes presented together in special boxes called jubako and eaten communally to celebrate the New Year. Each dish in the feast serves as a symbol or wish for the coming year.
The kuromame dish represents the wish for good health in order to work hard. Now, because of the beans’ numerous health benefits, people have started eating them in a variety of ways to try to stay healthy all year round. (Dinh, 2013)
MITSU’S JAM MADE FROM ROASTED BLACK SOYBEANS
At Kaiyu, Mitsu used the roasted black soybeans plumped up in our evening tea to make a delicious jam he and his wife, Tae, served with breakfast the following morning. We didn’t get their recipe, but here’s my guess at what was in it:
- Half cup of plumped up roasted black soybeans, ground or mashed
- Maybe a tablespoon of organic, local honey
- A little ground cinnamon, to taste
When I have enough plumped up beans (have to stop snacking on them after brewing the tea!) to make some jam, I think I’ll add a little grated orange or tangerine peel too. Mitsu’s version was spreadable and a little chewy.
ROASTED, SPICED BLACK SOYBEANS
This interesting preparation of dried black soybeans (not the roasted kind) appears on a recipes and health tips blog called kabochasandcoconutbutter – “about all things sweet, healthy + delicious”. The blog is by a Canadian fitness competitor living in Korea and the recipe is her creation.
She roasted regular (ie, unroasted) black soybeans (kuramame) with her favorite seasonings to produce a crispy, chewy, healthy and yummy snack.
- 500 g black soy beans (unroasted)
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1 tbsp chilli powder
- 1/2 tbsp natural sea salt
- 2 packets stevia (or sweetener of choice)
- coconut oil (optional- I didn’t use it, but if you want a crispier result, I’d recommend tossing your beans with some kind of oil)
Please let me know if you too get hooked on black soybeans, roasted or otherwise, and come up with some tasty ways to prepare them.
Dinh, M.L. (2013). (Japanese Culture) The Meaning Behind Osechi Ryori: Traditional New Year’s Food in Japan. See http://en.rocketnews24.com/2013/01/03/%E3%80%90japanese-culture%E3%80%91the-meaning-behind-osechi-ryori-traditional-new-years-food-in-japan/
Kabochasandbutter.com. (2013). See recipe at http://kabochasandcoconutbutter.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/spiced-roasted-black-soy-beans/
Oshima, S. (2002). It’s a drink and a snack: black soybeans. Japan Times. See http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2000/07/03/general/its-a-drink-and-a-snack-black-soybeans/#.U2BPqK1dXF8
© Copyright 2014 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.