Gyokuro is a soft and mellow green tea with an underlying sweetness. It needs to be brewed gently at lower temperatures to introduce it’s delicate flavour.
Like Sencha, it is yielded from the first spring harvest, giving it a higher concentration of nutrients than leaves harvested later in the year. An important distinction though is that Gyokuro is grown under shade for the last few weeks before harvesting.
Growing under shade increases levels of the amino acid L-theanine, as well as chlorophyl and caffeine, while reducing levels of catechins which are the source of the bitter flavour of many other green teas.
High levels of L-theanine give Gyokuro it’s mellow sweetness and full bodied umami flavour. L-theanine is responsible for the calming effect of shade-grown teas.
Our Gyokuro comes from Uji in Japan. Uji is the oldest Gyokuro producing area in Japan and growing tea under shade is thought to have originated there. With it’s moderate riverside climate perfect for tea cultivation, some of today’s farms, factories and tea-houses have existed in Uji for over 500 years, making it the centre of production of high quality green tea in Japan, with cultivation and production practices being passed down through several generations.
Gyokuro is delicate and requires a slightly lower brewing temperature than most teas. Add 1Tbsp tea to 2Cups of water at 70-80°C and it will be ready for drinking in around 1.5 minutes. For an even mellower flavour you could try using water as cool as 40-50°C and steeping for 5 minutes. Add more hot water to the tea that’s left in the pot as it’s drunk, until the flavour starts to fade.
Add 1Tbsp Gyokuro to pot.
Pour in 2 Cups of water at 70-80°C.
Allow to steep for 1.5mins.
Alternatively, a great way to quickly cool your boiled water before pouring over the tea leaves is to pour it from one vessel to another: fill your empty teapot with boiled water, pour the water into your cups, add the tea leaves to the pot and pour the water back from the cups.
This also serves to pre-heat your cups and pot, which will mean they don’t cool too quickly – especially helpful when using lower steeping temperatures.