Shaded teas like gyokuro and matcha are a world apart in the world of high-end Japanese tea. Indeed, these are teas that mostly beyond the phenomenon of shincha, new tea. It is, especially in the case of “Uji tea”, very rare to find gyokuro and matcha shincha for sale. The Japanese adore the idea of the new, but traditionally, in Kyôto, on the contrary, one prefer that which is old (okay, it’s a cliché that may be less true now). Thus, in general it was not until the fall that gyokuro and matcha of the year, coming to market. Some sellers even prefer to make blend with teas from the previous year. This is not only a simple cultural particularism. Indeed, in many cases, the quality of tea, sencha same, will be better after the summer, after maturation. But it is even more obvious with heavily shaded teas like gyokuro and even more matcha (of course, it is stored as tencha, unmilled). The taste got more power, depth. It is undeniable, and in the case of matcha, a shincha is just a pure commercial campaign, then they are very light, neither power nor clear aromas (of course, this kind of thing done with medium or even matcha bad). This is more relative with gyokuro, especially those in Yame (rolling is very different from gyokuro of Kyoto) and I also myself make an exception and release Yame gyokuro in the spring. But it is out of the question for those of Uji !!!!!
Well no, here’s another little break into the rule, this amazing little gyokuro from Uji-Tawara. Double exception since I am often skeptical when speaking about gyokuro from mechanical harvests, like this one.
The aromas of the tea completely charmed me. I would say it is not to be taken as a gyokuro, but merely as a Japanese steamed green tea, with unique aromas and simply delicious. It comes more exactly from Zenjôji, historical production area of Uji-Tawara, from one of the last small plantations that veteran Mr. Motomasa still carries himself because of his advanced age. Tea was also made in the Zenjôji Kuwahara cooperative factory. The latter is famous for teas that come in all have unique flavors, without anyone in know the exact reason. We know that this factory is old, very high ceiling, we are using older machines, and that it receives little emphasis in the shape of leaves.
For the first infusion, I use about 4-5g of leaves for 40-50 ml of water. A bit light for a gyokuro, but this is a very generous dosage compared to prepare sencha. Water at 60 ° C for 90s steeping.
The fragrance is light, but very nice, with the classic vegetable sweet contrast of a gyokuro, plus something different, yet quite difficult to grasp, yet captivating. On the palate, the tea has obviously strong impact and presence. Umami is of course strong, without being like a bouillon. There is also a bit of astringency. The aromas of both plants and sweet are already complex, but in general terms we are dealing with a delicious gyokuro, powerful but not heavy, in which we could feel flavors just waiting to get up in the daylight.
Now, for the second infusion, I quicly increase the temperature, 80 ° C water, about fifteen seconds. And there indeed, everything is much clear, rich, and complex. On the typical green aromas of shaded tea, we also feel fruitiness, a touch of vanilla, some of musk. On the palate, the impact is even greater. The astringency is very discreet, but graceful and strong umami mellowness fulfills the mouth. We feel aromas of lemon too. Returns in the aftertaste are mellow and very powerful with great length.
The third infusion, a bit warmer still, longer (a minute?) does not disappoint. It is always so rich; I would say astringency seems even more discreet, always with gentleness, so elegant and pleasant, while being of rare power. It has now stronger flavor of cooked vegetables like green beans, green pepper as always this touch of musk in perfumes. This is still very full in the mouth.
With the 4th infusion, 90 ° C, this amazing green tea seems to “finally” run out of steam. The liquor is then much lighter but still very drinkable. Without astringency, still nevertheless it was this powerful sweetness that lasts very long in the mouth. What a great “final”.
I wondered from what cultivar could it be made, a zairai-shu (seed grown plant)? No, it is simply a Yabukita.
Do not see a model of gyokuro (although at this price some might take example on this one), but simply a superb shaded steamed green tea, very rich, with an incredible endurance. Its aromas are very unusual, and although umami is naturally strong, it does not taste like a flat mellowness “soup”, this is an element that supports other complex aromas with elegance. So even those who dislike gyokuro should al least try and find their way trying various methods of infusions.
Anyway, this unconventional gyokuro, this unclassifiable green tea blew me away, and is one of the great surprises of 2016.
It’s a small lot, there is not much….