Gyokuro ("jade dew") is a
full-bodied Japanese green tea perfect to enjoy on its own or paired with
simple sweets. It's one of the world's most expensive teas - due to the high
cost of cultivation and market demand. The taste has notes of ocean and spring
greens, a balance of bitterness and sweetness with a lingering full mouth feel.
This style of tea began being cultivated in Uji prefecture
in the 1800's, and continues today. After the first buds appear in the early spring, the tea bushes are shielded from the sun 20 to 40 days before it is picked. Farmers use screens of rice straw or synthetic netting to protect the leaves from the sun's rays, which inhibit the formation of catechin (tannin), responsible for the astringent taste of all teas grown in uncovered fields. The shading also enhances the production of theanine, an amino acid that is the source of tea's natural sweet, full, richness (umami, in Japanese). Once picked, the leaves are steamed, twisted, dried and left to age
for six months (amino acids increase during the maturing process).
Soft Water is ideal to use when making
gyokuro. The water brands Volvic and Crystal Geyser are close to the taste of
Japanese soft water.
Store Gyokuro in an airtight and
light-tight canister, around 30 to 35 F. If stored correctly, gyokuro can be
aged and/or enjoyed for 2 years. As it ages, the taste becomes mellower.
Prepare Gyokuro with low water
temperature, in a small brewing vessel. It is generally steeped with 100 F to
140 F soft water, with the first infusion being longer allowing the tea leaves
to untwist. It can be made with hot or cold preparations. Here are some
Add 2 tablespoons to teapot
Add 6 ounces soft water (120 F)
Steep 60 to 75 seconds, pour all tea out - down to the last
Note: 3 or 4 steepings can be enjoyed from these leaves. For
the next infusions, make short 1 second steep times, as the leaves have already
Add 2 tablespoons to teapot
Add 3 ice cubes (soft water)
Wait 15 minutes, then pour out tea...enjoy!
Note: 3 or 4 steepings can be enjoyed from these leaves.
Re-steep with more ice cubes (10 minutes, then 5 minutes) or cold water (a few
About Japanese teas
History & Geography
Japan is an island country located in the Pacific
Ocean. Made up of over 3,000 islands, it forms an archipelago that
stretches along the Pacific Coast of Asia. 70 to
80 percent of its land is mountainous and not suitable for permanent living or
agriculture. Most the population lives in densely populated areas, in coastal
Tea first was introduced to Japan in the 900's through Zen Buddhism, when
returning Japanese monks brought tea seeds back with them from China.
Emulating what they had seen in China,
they first cultivated powdered tea, or matcha, a style popular in Song Dynasty China. The tea
was whisked in a bowl and shared, eventually evolving into the Japanese Tea
Japan credits the rise of tea drinking to a Monk named Eisai. Returning from China,
he planted tea seeds in the capitol of Kyoto
and writes a book "A Record of Tea Drinking for Good Health." In 1214, he was
summoned to administer the last rights to a young shogun, who was suffering
terribly. Eisai diagnosed him with being hung over, revived him with a bowl of
tea and presented him with his book. The shogun adopts tea drinking and a tea
Tea Production Today
Today, Japan produces both powdered and
loose leaf styles of green (un-oxidized) tea. They are divided into 4
catagories: matcha, sencha, gyokuro and bancha teas. The most important growing
regions are: Uji, Shizouka, Kagoshima and Kyoto Prefectures. Uji, Japan, just south of Kyoto, is the most famous
tea-growing region in Japan. Most of the finest teas come from this
region even though it produces on 4 percent of Japan's tea.
Our Japanese teas include: bancha, Genmaicha (tea with popped and roasted rice), hojicha (roasted tea), karigane kukicha (twig tea), sencha, gyokuro, and matcha.
While there are different cultivation/processing
methods unique to each style of tea, they all have the same first step in common:
steaming. Immediately after the tea leaves are picked, they are steamed to halt
the oxidization process. In contrast, Chinese green teas are pan or oven fired.
Japan currently harvests most of its tea mechanically.
Traditional hand picking is now reserved for small lots of premium tea.
The specialized harvesting equipment ranges from large tractor-like machines to
smaller gas powered trimmers, which are carried by two people who walk between
the rows of tea. The farmers using these precision machines are able to target
the new shoots on the plant, while a vacuum pulls the clipped leaves into a
Japanese green teas are famous for their umami
taste, a flavor best described as the natural sweetness of the tea leaf, tasting like ocean and refreshing spring greens. This pronounced taste,
occurring at different intensities depending on the tea, is directly related to
how the tea was cultivated and processed. Generally,
high grades of matcha, gyokuro and sencha teas have the strongest, sweet umami