It is not less than six new Uji gyokuro (again, that’s means gyokuro from Kyôto prefecture) that I added on Thés du Japon in September. It is almost inconceivable in Kyôto to release a gyokuro at spring. These are left to mature until at least the fall, some even preferring to let them age a year before putting them on sale.
I will first present the two gyokuro from Uji-Shirakawa by Mr. Kojima. Like last year, this is “Aracha” (unsorted raw tea). I selected this year the Gokô and the Uji-hikari cultivars.
The leaves of Gokô have a very green scent at first, however, there is also deep scent of candied fruit in the background.
The scent that emerges when pouring very warm water is much softer, velvety and round.
With 5g, 30ml of water at 50 ° C for 90s, we get of course a rich tea with a very typical shaded teas umami, but the whole is soft, umami develops afterwards, then that the first attack offers round and deep fruity aromas. Very sweet and pleasant to the nose, with a persistent vegetable flavors, diehard gyokuro fans will infuse 2 minutes.
The temperature can be increased quickly on the following infusions without astringency getting annoying.
This is the first time I present the Uji-hikari cultivar, but not the last, since I’ll also propose next month a Uji–hikari Matcha.
This cultivar seems more distinctive, and indeed, it is more rare to find it as a “single estate tea” than Gokô or Samidori.
The dry leaves have a sweet scent, with no vegetable scent, rather with a lemony edge, or even bitter orange.
With similar infusion parameters as Gokô, a much stronger liquor is obtained, with a powerful impact on tha palate accompanied by a bit of astringency, but also rich and sweet aromas. This first infusion provides a stunning contrast between umami and tannin.
This time we will continue by gently raising the temperature of the following infusions. These then appear more mellow and soft, although still robust, with sweet fragrances very appetizing.
We realize that we could go down even more the brewing temperature for Uji-hikari.
This is not the ideal gyokuro to discover this type of tea, but it’s a great tea to further explore the gyokuro, their infusions methods too. At the same time it is also a tea that would delight those looking for a robust tea with touch of astringency while having lots of sweetness and fruitiness.
Here is another “pair” of gyokuro, from Mr. Nishikawa plantations in Uji-Tawara. I have long had a rather negative impression about “kari-gyokuro” (刈玉露), ie the gyokuro harvested mechanically, yet those of Mr. Nishikawa, have changed my mind about that. Its teas have all the typical flavors of gyokuro, with perhaps only less intensity in umami, but for a very affordable price which makes them particularly attractive. These are real “ooishitaen” 覆い下園, shaded under arbor, not direct covering.
This is particularly the first of those two gyokuro who first stroke my attention. This is the Asahi cultivar. Asahi is most often used for tencha (matcha) than gyokuro, yet the result with this tea is great. Complex mix of woody scents, red fruits, orange, sugar, dried leaves are deliciously fragrant.
With this type of gyokuro, we can infuse a little warmer, 60 ° C.
The perfume is then slightly sweet, rather developing the wooded pole. In the mouth it is light and airy, the attack is velvety, with a light but very elegant umami in a fruity together, typically gyokuro.
The fruity and sweet scents are more present on the following infusions, always sweet but more powerful. The sweet fragrance which remains in the cup is a delight.
The second is (again) a Gokô cultivar. This one has a more green and fresh scent, slightly sweet and tangy.
The infusion does not lie on the cultivar. It is indeed greener, but with that something candied fruit or ripe fruit typical of Gokô. The general impression is very sweet and round.
The impact in the mouth is stronger, more stimulating. A touch of astringency accompanies strong umami. The after-taste is very intense and typical of Gokô. Softness of Asahi (we glimpse through gyokuro Asahi why the tencha Asahi are generally in the competition head) here leaves room for more brute power of Gokô (one can also understand there why Gokô, very popular for gyokuro is not for tencha). The following infusions leave much room for umami and pastry flavors too.
Both “kari-gyokuro” provide true gyokuro feelings, they also allow an easy comparison between two cultivars. They each have a different personality, and therefore should not be separated …
The last two gyokuro are hand-picked ones.
First, always in Uji-Tawara, the Gokô cultivar by Mr. Shimooka, already presented last year. Perhaps the most “smooth” the three Gokô I propose there, without strong vegetal pole, for a simple perfume, very soft and fruity.
The liquor is powerful and fragrant, sweet, with fresh notes, but a certain thickness, lots of umami, and the after-typical Gokô it. No astringency, strength, this 2016 vintage is much better than last year.
I finish with the last of these gyokuro, a Samidori cultivar which comes from Kyo-Tanabe, the most famous production areas of gyokuro in Kyôto prefecture, appreciated for its powerful teas on the palate, with a rich umami.
This is the Samidori cultivar, probably the most used of Uji shaded tea cultivar for both of gyokuro and tencha. This is a fairly productive cultivar, very easy to pick for pickers, and gives a typical umami, simple, without too much particularism in taste.
Indeed, the shaded tea fragrance is the simplest of the six teas, which does not prevent him from being very mild, mellow and pleasant.
This also applies to the brewed tea which has however a great intensity on the palate, umami is very strong, perfectly representative of this type of shaded tea. This is an excellent model of gyokuro, a very good introduction. However, for me it may miss the Gokô perfume of the Uji-Tawara one, or the personality of both the Shirakawa ones.
Both of Tawara and Tanabe gyokuro are excellent entries level in high grade gyokuro. Tanabe for taste, umami, Tawara for flavors and aromas.
Finally, it may seem that the latter two are easier to understand, more gently in the mouth than the first two from Shirakawa, nevertheless there is maybe less complexity. And if those from Shirakawa seem to have a stronger impact on the palate, successive brews are smooth, without any weariness. In short, we often think that the gyokuro offer less variety than the sencha, this is not completely wrong, but relatively speaking, we have here six gyokuro, including three Gokô cultivar, which are nevertheless all very different, all of which leave a different impression.