It’s tea time, and I’m craving flavorful tea. So I choose to make a cup of Gyokuro green tea. What is Gyokuro tea, and why is it so special?
Gyokuro is a high-quality and one of the most expensive types of Japanese green tea. It is produced by shading the tea plant for about 3 weeks before harvesting, resulting in higher levels of theanine (an amino acid) and caffeine in the leaves.
Because of the increased chlorophyll concentrations within the leaf, the color of the tea leaf is deep green. The infusion is pale green in color and has a sweet, vegetal flavor as well as a unique aroma.
Now you understand the basics of Gyokuro green tea. Let’s go a little further and look at some of the specific characteristics of this tea.
You might decide to try this variety of green tea after learning more about it. Who knows, it could just become your favorite.
What Makes Gyokuro Green Tea So Special?
The shading before harvesting is the most significant factor that separates Gyokuro green tea from the other green tea types. It’s also the limited quantity on the market, the special deep green leaf color, and the unique taste.
Let us analyze each of these in further detail.
Limited Quantity and Increased Production Effort
First of all, Gyokuro green tea is harvested just once a year, and the quantity available on the market is limited to what farmers can produce in that time frame.
This indicates that there is a limited quantity of this high-quality green tea. Farmers must put in far more effort to produce it than other Japanese green tea types.
I mentioned the shading process at the start. Before harvesting, the farmers shade the Gyokuro plant for roughly 20–30 days. This requires farmers to create “roofing” atop their plants. For comparison, Sencha, the most famous Japanese green tea, is produced in full sunlight, so no extra work is required.
Furthermore, Gyokuro is hand-picked by the farmers. This is done at a specific time. It’s a time-consuming procedure, and only the best tea leaves go to the next stage of processing.
The Impact of Shading Before Harvest
One of the most crucial phases in the production of Gyokuro tea is shading the plant before harvest. It contributes to the final product’s color and flavor.
To begin with, shade reduces photosynthesis in the leaves. To put it simply, less sunlight means less photosynthesis.
More theanine is produced when photosynthesis is reduced, and less theanine is transformed into catechin. Catechin is a polyphenol that contributes to the astringency of green tea.
As a result, tea with lower-catechin levels in the leaves has lower astringency. Tea with higher theanine content has a stronger umami flavor and is sweeter.
The end result is Gyokuro tea leaves with a deep green color and tea liquor with a strong umami taste. Umami is commonly characterized as “a pleasant savory taste.”
The Taste of Gyokuro Green Tea
Gyokuro tea has a superb, powerful umami taste that is followed by a slight sweetness. It packs a strong punch of savory, brothy-tasting liquid with a pleasant aftertaste.
Its taste is unique and very different from other Japanese green teas such as Sencha, Hojicha, Genmaicha, etc.
A properly brewed Gyokuro tea should have very little bitterness and very little astringency. It’s not like other green teas, and once you taste it, you’ll notice a significant difference in its refreshing taste.
To grasp the full flavor and aroma of the Gyokuro, it should be brewed properly (see below), and you should also attempt to savor and feel every drop of tea from your cup.
This is not a tea to drink quickly. Slow down and take one sip at a time to truly discover its lovely taste and aroma.
Caffeine Content of Gyokuro
Gyokuro green tea has a caffeine content of 35-92 mg per 6-ounce cup. Gyokuro has more caffeine than other types of Japanese green tea. The major cause of the higher caffeine content is shading the plant before harvesting.
I should point out that this is only an estimated number. The right caffeine level in green tea is extremely difficult to establish.
There are several factors that influence the caffeine content of green tea. The quantity of tea leaves, water temperature, steeping time, processing methods, and cultivation practices all have an impact on the caffeine levels in a given variety of green tea.
So don’t take this approximate number for granted for the caffeine in Gyokuro green tea. You should know that it is one of the green teas that contain higher levels of caffeine. Always check the label for caffeine levels or ask your tea provider when purchasing your tea.
If you like green tea with low-caffeine content and you enjoy the flavor of toasted rice, you can look at Genmaicha green tea (another specific Japanese green tea type).
How to Brew Gyokuro Tea Properly
You are now aware that this is a highly special and pricey tea. To acquire the full flavor and aroma of Gyokuro green tea, you must know how to brew it properly. This tea is prepared slightly differently from other teas.
To brew Gyokuro properly, you will first need a high-quality tea and an appropriately-sized tea set.
High-quality tea: Tea quality is really crucial. You won’t obtain an excellent cup of Gyokuro tea with the ideal flavor and aroma if the quality is low or moderate.
The right-sized teaware: Although you may brew it in any teapot, having the correct teaware can help you prepare and serve Gyokuro tea more easily. It will also help you maximize your experience. Hohin, Yuzamashi, and Gyokuro teacups are included in the Gyokuro tea set.
Hohin (a one-of-a-kind teapot) is designed specifically for brewing Gyokuro. It misses a handle since it is meant to be held in your hand.
If the water is cool enough for you to hold the hohin in your palm, that is the ideal temperature for Gyokuro. As a result, the hohin serves as both a teapot and a thermometer.
Yuzamashi (teapot without a cover) can help in regulating water temperature to produce the desired color, taste, and fragrance.
Gyokuro teacups are significantly smaller than ordinary teacups. They come in useful if you need to chill the water down more, but they are also the perfect size for pouring Gyokuro tea.
Is this special Gyokuro teaware really necessary? If you don’t have it, you can still make your Gykuro tea by using an electric tea kettle and a regular teacup. But brewing Gyokuro with this special teaware brings a new experience.
- Water: 100 ml (3.5 fl oz)
- Gyokuro tea leaf: 6 grams
- Steeping time: 120 seconds
- Water temperature: 40–50°C (104–122°F)
- Gyokuro teaware
Cooling the heated water
In a kettle, bring water to a boil. The heated water should then be cooled down. Pour the boiling water into the empty teapot first. Pouring hot water into a teapot should reduce the water temperature by 10°C, or from 90-100°C to 80-90°C.
Gyokuro tea requires water that is 40–50°C in temperature. So, pour the teapot’s water into the Yuzamashi (a teapot without a cover). This reduces the water temperature by another 10°C. The water temperature is now approximately 70-80°C.
Pour the water from the yuzamashi into 3 Gyokuro teacups to cool the water even further. This will drop the temperature by another 10°C.
It will now be between 60 and 70°C. Remove any remaining hot water from your yuzamashi. Return the water from each teacup to the yuzamashi and wait for the temperature to decrease to roughly 40°C.
This may appear complicated, but you may use your electric kettle with the water temperature set at 40 °C (104 °F). This method of brewing Gyokuro tea is more traditional. This will help you comprehend the significance and uniqueness of this green tea.
Steeping the tea leaves
When the water temperature is just right, put the Gyokuro tea leaves into the teapot. Then, slowly pour the heated water over the tea leaves. Allow the tea to steep for 120 seconds or 2 minutes.
Pour the tea into Gyokuro teacups after 2 minutes of steeping. If you wish to serve multiple cups, say three, pour a little into each cup alternately so that the richer tea in the bottom of the pot is dispersed evenly across all cups.
To begin, pour halfway in the order 1 – 2 – 3. Pour it again in the reverse order of 3 – 2 – 1. It is critical to serve all of the tea in the teapot to the last drop. You may then have a second and third brewing with the same leaves.
Drinking Gyokuro tea
Gyokuro teacups are smaller in size. This does not imply that you should consume all of the tea at once. You should sip your Gyokuro green tea slowly.
Take a little sip and let the tea rest on your tongue. This will allow you to experience the amazing scent and umami flavor that this tea has to offer. Believe me, this is really exceptional!
Re-steeping Gyokuro tea
Gyokuro can be re-steeped multiple times. Use a slightly warmer water temperature – 50°C (122°F) – for the second brewing. The steeping time for the second brewing should be reduced, for example, to 60 seconds/1 minute.
For the third brewing, use a hotter water temperature – 60°C (140 °F ) – than for the second. The third brewing should take 120 seconds or 2 minutes to steep.
How To Identify Quality Gyokuro
First, ask your tea vendor where the Gyokuro tea originates from. Yame, Shizuoka, and Uji in Japan are most recognized for producing high-quality Gyokuro. If the origin of the tea is not specified, it is possible that it is a blend of teas from different locations.
Second, the appearance of the leaves might indicate high-quality Gyokuro. A high-quality leaf is dark green and glossy. For a high-quality Gyokuro, there should be no twigs and not too many broken leaves. If there are too many broken leaves, this indicates that the tea has stalled (lost its humidity).
The aroma is the third quality indicator. A sweet seaweed scent should be detected while smelling high-quality Gyokuro leaves. It should be refreshing.
The taste of Gyokuro tea is the last quality indicator. Because you are purchasing pricey tea, it is usually a good idea to get a sample first to determine whether the tea is truly exceptional.
Gyokuro tea liquid should have a lot of umami, a little astringency, and a refreshing taste if brewed properly.
At the end of this Gyokuro green tea guide, I’d want to express how much I love this tea. Its unique, refreshing taste is what distinguishes it as a very exceptional tea. If you enjoy drinking high-quality green tea, this is an excellent choice.
Remember to follow the brewing directions. The optimal brewing temperature is 40–50 °C, and the first infusion should be steeped for 120 seconds. Select high-quality Gyokuro green tea by following the quality guidelines outlined above. Enjoy!