Among all the varieties of Japanese green tea, gyokuro tea leaves fall at the very top. Gyokuro goes through a very special process which produces a sweeter flavor and a gorgeous green color fitting for its name, which literally means “jade dew” (玉露). See just why gyokuro is crowned as the best in class among Japanese green teas, and why it’s one of our favorites!
The Green Tea Tiers
Green tea in general, or ryokucha (緑茶), is the most common type of tea in Japan. Within this category of tea, there are numerous grades of teas, and variations in between! Let’s take a quick look at three common green tea options:
This is the finest quality green tea due to the extra care that goes into its processing and earlier harvesting. Its leaves are protected from sunlight, which gives it its distinct flavor.
Next in the lineup, sencha is also harvested early in the season. This is the green tea that is most widely consumed across Japan. These tea leaves are grown under full sunlight. Teas that fall under this category include houjicha, a type of roasted green tea, and genmaicha, which consists of sencha tea leaves with toasted rice.
This lower grade tea is harvested later in the season, after sencha. Easy to brew, with a more woodsy flavor and lower caffeine content, bancha is also widely drank as a daily tea for regular consumption.
How Gyokuro is Different
So what makes Gyokuro tea stand out? Well, fi
rst off, it’s that these leaves stay out of the sun. Gyokuro tea leaves are shaded with woven straw or bamboo nets twenty days before they are harvested in the early spring. This slows down photosynthesis, which darkens the leaves and gives gyokuro its sweeter, smoother flavor. Next, gyokuro leaves are picked first in the spring harvest season, steamed, rolled into thin spindle-like pieces, and dried. After all this, the leaves are sorted and packaged into different grades, with the finest and thinnest rolled gyokuro leaves considered the cream of the crop.
Top 5 Reasons We Love Gyokuro
With all this tender, loving care, gyokuro leaves produce a tea with a multi-faceted flavor that is easy to drink. Gyokuro tea’s flavor can be described as refreshing, grassy, and sweet with less of the bitterness compared to sencha.
2. Gorgeous Green Color
Gyokuro tea’s vivid green color really lives up to its name! We recommend enjoying it in a white or light colored cup to enjoy its vibrancy to the max.
3. Low Astringency
You know when you drink certain teas, there is that “drying” sensation on your tongue? That feeling is astringency, which is caused by tannins in the tea. For example, you may notice that black teas generally have a higher astringency than green or white teas. We talked about how shading causes gyokuro leaves to be tea sweeter. Another effect is that it also reduces tannins. This creates a smooth mouth-feel that makes gyokuro tea agreeable to almost any palate.
4. Multiple Steeps
With this higher grade tea, of course you’ll want to savor and enjoy it fully! Because of gyokuro’s delicate leaves, it’s recommended to brew with water at a lower temperature, and to let the leaves steep a little longer. Steep the tea a few more times after to experience this tea’s complex flavor profile.
5. Pairs Well
The smooth flavor of gyokuro means it goes well with different foods, whether savory or sweet. Enjoy it with your dinner, pair it with Japanese snacks and sweets, or simply relax with a steaming hot cup after a long day.
For a morning pick me up or to calm your mind, a hot cup of gyokuro tea will bring you the serenity you need. But don’t stop there, discover the many kinds of Japanese teas that are available, there’s a tea for every mood and palate!