Gyokuro – the “Jade Dew” Japanese Green Tea
Gyokuro (玉露) is one of the highest grades of green tea from Japan. The word “Gyokuro” translates as “Jade Dew” and refers to the deep green color of the infusion. It is different from Japanese classic unshaded green tea called Sencha because of another cultivation method used – about 3 weeks before harvesting the tea leaves are shielded from direct sunlight. The same process of shading the green tea fields is used for both Gyokuro and Matcha.
The history of Gyokuro
Gyokuro first appeared in Uji, Kyoto region, the ancient capital of Japan. Even nowadays, it is grown almost exclusively in the region of Kyoto. The tea was first discovered by Yamamotoyama Tea Company. Its sixth owner, Yamamoto Kahei, in 1835 traveled to Uji to study Tencha processing. Uji farmers invented the technique of shading the tea before harvesting trying to protect tender green tea leaves from the frost by using straw umbrellas. Yamamoto tried to replicate their methods but ended with a completely different kind of tea, which nevertheless tasted great and became popular. In 1841, another manufacturer Eguchi Shigejuro further refined the production of the tea and gave Gyokuro its name.
Gyokuro origins from the variety of tea plant with small leaves known as Yabukita. This sweet tea is used in many kinds of Japan’s highest quality green teas. Gyokuro is made only from the earliest leaf buds of the spring harvest. Several weeks prior it is harvested the tea bushes are covered to reduce the springtime sunlight to minimum. The first step after harvesting is that carefully picked leaves are lightly steamed to prevent oxidation. A key difference between Japanese green tea and other teas (black tea, oolong tea, Chinese green tea) is that Japanese tea leaves are steamed right after being harvested.
The steaming process is very quick and lasts not more then 15 – 20 seconds but it is performed soon, during 12 – 20 hours, after the leaves were picked. Thanks to this light steaming process, and particularly to the next stage rolling process, most of the natural deep green color, fragrance and nutritional components are preserved.
The second step is primary rolling and then air-drying to get shape and flavor. The result is a raw tea known as Aracha, a rough grade of tea with high water content. Later Aracha will be sorted into various leaf grades, known as Tencha. The finest grades of Tencha will be selected to make Gyokuro. At this stage, the tea goes through many lengthy rolling and drying stages to provide the tea its special needle-like form. Final product is stored to ripen for at least a week in order for next developing its specific features and aroma.
Dry Gyokuro is composed from long, dark green, needle-like leaves with sweet aromas of buttered corn, roasted hazelnuts and fresh green. Brewed, the leaves give more vegetal aromas. The rich yellow-green infusion has a mellow, bitter sweet fragrance.
Gyokuro green tea distinctive features
Growing Gyokuro leaves in the shadow is the reason that photosynthesis significantly reduced and less of the theanine gets converted to other compounds increasing its amount in leaves. Presence of great number of tips and young shoots rises the level of caffeine content. Nevertheless, owing to the theanine calming effect the general effect of the caffeine is more delicate and slow than from coffee. The tea also gains its noble aroma and elegant sweetness from the covering process.
Gyokuro tea special benefits:
- Reduces the risk of cancer thanks to its high content of antioxidants
- Inhibits the growth of tumors and protect cell structure from damaging by free radicals
- Stimulates the metabolism and burn off calories
- Lowers cholesterol level and protect against various cardiovascular diseases
- Gives better concentration and makes one energetic
- Prevents dental deceases and freshen breath
- Provides antibacterial effect
- Pour hot water into a pot for preheating and wait until the temperature drops down to 70C – 75C (158F – 167F)
- Take hot water from the pot and pour it into 3 cups (30 ml each) for preheating. Wait until the temperature gets down to 60C – 65C (140F – 149F)
- Pour the water from the 3 cups into a small bowl where it can get cool
- Put Gyokuro tea leaves in the pot. For 3 servings, 3 full tea spoons of tea (about 7-8g). For 5 servings, 4 full tea spoons (about 10-12g)
- When temperature of the water in a bowl has fallen to 50C – 55C (122F – 131F), pour the warm water back into the pot and wait for 1,5 – 2 min for the first infusion
- Pour the tea equally into the 3 cups to get the same taste and concentration. Do not leave any tea in the pot
For the second infusion use water of a little higher temperature than for the first (55C – 60C, 131F – 140F) and let the tea draw for only 30 seconds before pouring it into the cups.
For the third infusion use water of even higher temperature than for the second and let the tea draw for only 15 seconds.