Gyokuro is clearly a luxury high-end Japanese green tea. A real gyokuro (ie a gyokuro which is not a blend of gyokuro and kabuse-cha) is expensive. This tea is divine, well prepared, it is very strong and mellow, because extremely rich in amino acids. Its sweet flavor remains long in the mouth. It is drunk in very small quantities, 2 or 3 small sips.
These leaves are a dark deep green almost bluish. Its liquor is very clear, a light yellow-green color.
Production of gyokuro is divided between the departments of Kyoto (Uji tea) and Fukuoka (tea Yame). A very small quantities are also produced in Shizuoka.
After picking, the process of gyokuro is not really different from that of sencha.
This is before harvest, in the plantation, that makes all the difference.
The peculiarity of gyokuro is that about 20 days before the scheduled day of picking, the tea trees are covered, shaded. In Japanese a shaded plantation is called ooishita-chaen 覆 下 茶園.
This has the effect of limiting the conversion in the leaves of amino-acids such as theanin (responsible for the umami sweetness of the tea) into catechin (tannin responsible for astringency) due to photosynthesis. Thus, a high-theanin and low catechin tea is obtained, that is very mellow, rich in umami flavor, and very little astringency.
A structure is built above the plantation.
The traditional technique is called honzu-ooi 本 蔶 覆 い or honzu-hifuku 本 蔶 被覆. Tea shrubs are covered for the first 7 to 10 days with bamboo blinds in order to cut 55-60% of the light. Then we add on the top rice straw for 10 days in order to cut 95 to 98% of the light.
Modern technology uses synthetic fibers. A first thread cutting for 7 to 10 days 65 to 70% of the brightness, and is added for further 10 days a second score, from 95 to 98% of the light is thus cut.
(The tencha, matcha raw material, is grown in the same way)
By the way, a quality gyokuro is picked manually on uncut tea (thus only one crop a year is possible)
There are special cultivars for the production of shaded green tea. Goko and samidori are often used for Gyokuro. Even if they are sencha cultivar, Sae-midori, Oku-midori or Yamakai are also popular for making gyokuro.
In 2008, gyokuro represented only 0.4% of the tea cultivated surface in Japan.
(for principles concerning the elements of the tea infusion and their influence on flavor, refer to sencha)
– 3 to 4 grams of leaves by persons
– Use water between 50 and 60 ° C, in order to minimizing the infusion of catechin and take advantage of the caracterictics of gyokuro.
(chilled water must be boiled for 3 to 5 minutes! )
– Pour about 30 ml of water per person
Let infuse for 2 minutes, then serve not forgetting to pour little by little into each cup, alternatively, in order to get the same taste and the same amount of tea. Also, be sure to pour until the very last drop!
Given the small quantities of water in comparison to the quantity of leaves, it is easily possible to go up to 4 infusions, each time increasing the water temperature. Also, for the last infusion, the 4th or 5th, I recommend you use water more than 90 ° C, to bring out all caffeine and catechin (respectively bitter and astringent), to infuse at least one minute (you do not even have to drink this infusion), then eat the leaves with ponzu or shoyu sauce. You will discover an extraordinary flavor.
Categories: Types of tea