What is Gyokuro Tea?
Gyokuro, meaning “Jade Dew” in Japanese, is one of the finest and most expensive varieties of Japanese green tea. It is celebrated for its exceptional flavor, rich aroma, and vibrant green color. Unlike most other green teas, Gyokuro is shaded about 20 weeks before the harvest. This distinct method gives it a uniquely sweet flavor as well as higher levels of l-theanine, an amino acid known for its calming properties.
Gyokuro is a fairly new tea compared to other traditional Japanese teas, being first produced sometime in the middle of the 19th century. The tea is believed to have been first created in the city of Uji, a region near Kyoto which is famous for its high-quality teas.
Despite its relatively recent beginnings, Gyokuro is considered today to be one of the highest forms of Japanese tea being highly regarded by tea connoisseurs worldwide. The processes used in its cultivation and preparation have been refined over the years, but they remain reflective of the deep respect and appreciation for nature that is at the heart of all Japanese tea culture.
Growing, Harvesting and Processing Gyokuro
The cultivating process of Gyokuro is a meticulous one, requiring a lot of patience and skill. Roughly three weeks before the spring harvest, the tea bushes are covered to block the leaves from direct sunlight. This slows down growth and stimulates a higher production of chlorophyll, l-theanine, and other beneficial compounds, while at the same time reducing the amount of tannin, which contributes to the tea’s overall astringency.
After the leaves are plucked, they are then steamed which stops the oxidation process, keeping the leaves green. The leaves are then carefully hand-rolled into distinctively thin, needle-like form helping to preserve the flavor and aroma of the tea. All of this meticulous work contributes to Gyokuro’s rich, dark green color, unique and exquisite aesthetic, and it’s sweet aroma and umami flavor profile.
Is Gyokuro a Tea for You?
Obviously, this is super subjective, but if what we describe sounds good to you, then absolutely you should give Gyokuro a try. It just might be your new cup of tea.
Here are a few things to consider…
The Gyokuro Experience: Gyokuro has a distinct umami-rich, sweetness, as well as a complexity that sets it apart from other teas. If you enjoy flavors that are rich, complex, and layered, you might enjoy Gyokuro. However, drinking Gyokuro is about more than just the taste. It can become a calming, meditative experience that involves appreciating the aroma, the color, the temperature, and the flavor. If you enjoy the ritualistic aspect of drinking tea and the sensory experience that comes with it, Gyokuro may just enhance your experience.
Health Benefits: Like other green teas including Organic Sencha, Sencha Supreme, and Matcha, Gyokuro is rich in antioxidants and other beneficial compounds. Due to the unique shading process, Gyokuro has higher levels of l-theanine, which can help you remain calm, focused, and alert. If part of the reason you enjoy tea is knowing that it offers an abundance of health benefits, then Gyokuro also fits the bill nicely.
The Cost: Gyokuro is a higher-grade tea making one of the more expensive Japanese teas. Compared to your everyday Organic Sencha, Gyokuro can be more than double the price. Instead of spending $2 – $3 an ounce, you’d be spending closer to $6 an ounce. Now, price isn’t everything so if you are open to spending a bit more for a highly prized, unique tea experience, then trying Gyokuro would be worthwhile.
How to Prepare Gyokuro
Brewing Gyokuro requires careful attention to water temperature and brewing time. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Tea Quantity: Measure out about 1 & 1/2 teaspoons of tea per 8 ounces of water.
- Water Temperature: Gyokuro is delicate, and the water temperature should be lower than for other types of green tea to prevent over-extraction. Aim for a temperature around 160°F after which you can experiment.
- Steeping Time: Pour the water over the tea leaves and let it steep for roughly 60 seconds for the first infusion. The key is to extract the tea gently to bring out its subtle flavors and complexities.
- Serving: Pour the tea into small cups, dividing it equally so that the taste and temperature are the same in each cup. Gyokuro is often enjoyed in small sips, allowing you to fully appreciate all of its delicate and complex characteristics.
- Multiple Infusions: High-quality Gyokuro can be steeped multiple times. For the second infusion, you can use slightly hotter water and a shorter steeping time (about 30 seconds). For the third and subsequent infusions, gradually increase the temperature of the water and extend the steeping time.