What is Gyokuro Tea?
Gyokuro is one of the highest quality and most expensive Japanese green tea. In Japanese, gyokuro means jade dew, which refers to its bright green color. Its smooth, sweet, and mild taste is not as astringent or bitter as other teas and easy to drink. This premium tea has a delicate production and brewing process. Gyokuro uses new and young leaves, usually handpicked, from shaded tea plants. Unlike other tea, gyokuro is brew at a lower temperature.
Two districts well-known for producing high-quality gyokuro tea are Yame in Fukuoka and Uji in Kyoto. In Japan, Yame has won the most awards for gyokuro, followed by Uji.
How is Gyokuro Tea produced?
Tea farmers shade the tea plants for 20 to 30 days under straw, black mesh cloth, or other materials to block out sunlight. Sometimes a second layer is added for more protection. In the past, this covering served to protect against frost in winter. Unlike other types of tea, the tea plants are allowed to grow tall. Gyokuro comes from young and small leaves, usually handpicked, during the early season of May to June.
After picking, the tea leaves undergo steaming, drying, and rolling like other types of tea. However, the young leaves are of a higher quality and are rolled beautifully with a bright green color.
Why shade the leaves?
The lack of sunlight slows down photosynthesis and prevents the sweet amino acid l-theanine from being converted into catechin, a bitter antioxidant. Hence, the tea tastes sweeter and fuller.
How to Brew Gyokuro Tea?
Gyokuro has a brewing process that requires care. First, boil water and bring the temperature down to around 50 and 60°C (122 and 140 °F). A traditional way is to pour boiled water from a teapot into teacups and then pour the water back into the teapot before brewing. This method also preheats the cups so the tea can stay warm longer.