What is Gyokuro tea and how do you drink it?

Have you tried Gyokuro tea? It is the very highest quality sencha green tea. The way Gyokuro is grown is similar to the way matcha is produced. The leaves of the tea plant are cultivated in the shade so as to produce the maximum sweetness and umami taste. As you can imagine, especially with the current global warming conditions, growing tea leaves under direct sunlight is much harsher, and can almost burn the tender shoots, creating tougher leaves by the time of harvest. For the finest teas, like Gyokuro (and the best matcha), many Japanese tea farmers construct screens out of natural materials like bamboo to protect their crops (as seen above).

Our tea farmers construct these special screens each year from the beginning of March to May, with harvest time normally being in May. This year the harvest in Japan was a little later as they had a chilly March!

Many respected tea makers are based in Kyoto and we have been working with Kyoto’s most prestigious tea makers Marukyu Koyamaen and Ippodo for a long time. However the best region for Gyokuro is not actually Kyoto, but is Yame on Kyushu island. There they have held the best Gyokuro tea award for over 20 years. Gyokuro is grown under heavily shaded conditions, to generate as much sweetness and umami flavour as possible.

After the harvest in May, Gyokuro teas are steamed and the leaves and stems separated. Then the leaves are rubbed, so that they can be polished, a process which can produce even more sweetness.

As Gyokuro is a delicate tea, it will require around 50 degrees of hot water to brew.

How to brew the best Gyokuro

  1. Fill the teapot with plenty of hot water from the kettle and wait until the teapot heats up. The temperature of the water will drop from 95-98℃ to 70-75℃ if the tea pot is cold.
  1. Pour some hot water from the teapot into three small teacups and wait a while until the teacups are sufficiently warm. The temperature of the water will drop from 70-75℃ to 50-55℃ and also it will warm up the tea cups.
  1. Put the tea leaves in the empty warm teapot. For three servings, use three teaspoons, or about 7-8g. 
  1. Pour the water from the tea cups to the tea pot and wait 1.5 to 2 minutes for the tea to infuse.
  1. Pour evenly into each teacup, making sure to squeeze out all the tea.

For the second brew, make the water slightly warmer than for the first brew (55℃ to 60℃), then pour it into the teapot and serve it about 30 seconds later.

 For the third brew, raise the temperature even further than the second brew and serve it in about 15 seconds.   

Our Yame region’s best Gyokuro is back in stock with us now. Also, we have the very elegant Ippodo’s Gyokuro in stock too. I tasted this tea at Ippodo’s tea room in Kyoto last month and I am very keen to introduce it to curious tea lovers.

Enjoy your Gyokuro Tea! 

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