I recalled it in a previous article, but gyokuro is indeed the Japanese tea to enjoy in the current late winter/early srping season. By this I mean that not only gyokuro is never sold at the time of shincha, but from autumn, and also that it is really now, after almost a year of maturation, that it reveal its full depth.
So this is the time to add a new one to my selection. While the Gokô cultivar from Shirakawa is no longer available (we will have to wait until next autumn), here is another great Gokô cultivar gyokuro from Kyô-Tanabe. Kyô-Tanabe is the region par excellence associated with the high-end “Uji-gyokuro”. It is a gyokuro by Mr. Yoneta from Iioka, whose I had already proposed 2015 vintage. Of course, this is what I call a real gyokuro, that is to say shaded under arbor of course (no direct cover shading), but also harvested manually on shizen-shitate (non trim) plants.
The fragrance of the leaves dry and already intense and complex. It is a fairly green scent, evoking the tomato concentrate with something marine, like a feeling of crab soup. But it is also mellow, velvety and soft.
If gyokuro is one of the great types of teas typically Japanese, steamed green tea putting particularly emphasis on the umami flavor, it is a pity that it is finally so little known. The gyokuro has the image of a luxury tea, very high-end. This is of course quite true for these gyokuro picked manually. But it is a mistake to think, when buying a Japanese tea, that privileging the gyokuro to the detriment of the sencha makes it possible not to be deceived. On the one hand gyokuro is not a tea type superior to sencha, there are very high-end sencha. And especially on the other hand, gyokuro is distinguished by its very particular mode of preparation and tasting. Indeed, brewed like a classical green tea, the gyokuro will have on the contrary no interest. It is grown in such a way as to enhance in an extreme way the umami and the particular fragrance of shaded teas called “ooika”. Thus, it must be preparing with lots of leaves and very little lukewarm water. The result is only a few drops of a tea, a nectar, very intense, but sweet and without astringency.
For 5g of leaves, use 30ml of water (for even a little less) at about 50 ° C (this makes an even lower infusion temperature since so little water will cool very quickly). For this Gokô, brew 2 minutes for the first infusion.
A deep perfume emerges as soon as the first drops of water are poured onto the leaves.
The few drops of nectar obtained are very fragrant. It is sweet with pastry notes of vanilla and cocoa, and quite different from the very green notes of dry leaves.
In the mouth, it is very intense. It is the notes of sweet cocoa which strikes at the first attack, then one is immediately submerged by the strength of the umami, sweet and mellow, and recalling a Japanese broth “dashi” based on “konbu”. The umami that forms the basis of the refinement of Japanese cuisine is also found in tea, and this extreme example of gyokuro is a perfect illustration of the uniqueness of Japanese tea, steamed green tea. The very low mineralized water of Japan is the link between all these elements (water used to steam leaves and to prepare tea on the one hand, water to prepare konbu broths and / or katsuo-bushi omnipresent in the kitchen Japanese).
We can thus make 6 or 7 infusions, whose taste evolves slowly, always rich and without the slightest trace of astringency.
We always have a very strong after-taste very sweet (umami) which is becoming more and more vegetable over the infusions.
I was talking about refinement, yes, but no delicacy, the gyokuro is a definitely strong, dense and intense tea.
This Gokô gyokuro from Tanabe also offers an opportunity of comparison with the one from Uji-tawara. A little less upscale, the latter shows a different profile, the character of the gyokuro from Uji-tawara. It is a very rewarding experience to explore this type of tea which are said to be difficult. Gyokuro initially put off a little, nevertheless, multiple tastings and comparisons eventually open the doors of an exciting universe as a kind of illumination, and the preparation of gyokuro becomes a real pleasure. The tool is also very important, and the shibori-dashi seems to me to be the perfect choice, and I would never cease to recommend those by Itô Gafû in particular.