A young monk once asked the wise tea master Lao Cha:
— Sensei, how can we make green tea not only fresh and healthy but also delicately sweet?
— In the early Spring, when the tea bushes start to wake up from their long winter sleep and the first tea leaves begin to appear, make sure to shade them from the sun. Then the roots will start extracting more valuable nutrients from the soil to feed the leaves. The tea made from these very leaves will be gentle and sweet. This tea will be worthy of the Gods. You will call it Gyokuro.
Gyokuro is rightfully regarded as the highest grade of Japanese tea. It is made only with the first flush leaves — the tea's unique processing results in a sweet, mild flavor and fresh, flowery-green aroma. Gyokuro tea bushes are shaded from direct sunlight for 20 days before harvesting. That step makes the tea plant stack on theanine. It is an amino acid that gives Gyokuro tea leaves their sweetness. Afterward, the leaves are immediately steamed, dried, and carefully rolled into distinctive shapes resembling pine needles.
Our Dento Hon Gyokuro of Saemidori cultivar comes from Yame, Fukuoka prefecture. It is amazingly sweet, extremely rich in umami, and contains plenty of caffeine. This rare tea is hand-picked from the sweet Sae Midori cultivar at the end of May. Its scent is refreshing, with next to no bitterness. However, what makes it stand apart is its incredible umami that will leave a round and rich feeling on your palate. After the first, more delicate brew at low temperatures, the leaves can be easily brewed up to three times, like a sencha. Packed with caffeine and beautiful light gold color, you can enjoy this premium tea in the late morning or early afternoon for an incredible energy boost. An extraordinary example of the excellency of Yame tea masters and one of the jewels of Koga Cha Gyo.
Shaded tea bushes
The best plantations in Fukuoka prefecture are indeed in the Yame area. Morning mists and river fogs are very frequent. Curtains of fog wrap green tea plantations, properly blocking sunlight. It makes the tea leaves more tender and sweeter. In addition, Yame enjoys a vast temperature difference from day to night.
This craft tea can be rebrewed up to 5 times. For best results, try rebrewing with only a few seconds. Flash infusions will help the tea leaves gently reveal their tender sweetness and plentiful umami notes without being overpowered by bitterness.
Watch a video on how to brew Gyokuro Tea
135-145℉ / 55-65℃ for the first infusion; 170ºF / 75ºC for subsequent infusions
1g per 30ml
2 min for the first infusion; then 30-45 sec for subsequent infusions or 2 min for the first infusion; then flush infusions, a few seconds each.
I ordered this tea as I am very interested in Saemidori cultivar from Yame. This gyokuro definately meets my expectation. For the first infusion with140F water I can taste strong unami like seaweed. For the second infusion with 155F water the natural sweetness kicked in. For the third infusion, I can taste a full-body flavor. I really enjoy the suble difference between each round. I will reorder once I finish the 100g pack haha
Brewed this tea for the first time this morning and decided to try something a little different. I decided to go with much smaller volumes at lower temperatures and everything worked out perfectly. To start with I used 3g for Gyokuro in 35ml of water in a very small 35ml Shiboridashi. I did a total of five steeping at temperatures of 130, 135, 140, 145 and 160F. Brew times were 120, 30, 45, 60, and 75 seconds. I served the tea in a small sake cup that just holds around 35ml. Throughout all five steeping the aroma and flavor were just outstanding. The dominant aroma throughout from dry leaves to the fifth infusion was vegetal but a mild vegetal... nothing harsh at all. The dominant taste sensation was sweetness. With each brew, the first thing I experienced when bringing the tea to my lips was the sensation of sweetness on my lips and tongue. Then the slight thickness/brothiness of the brew. The vegetal sensation was there but took a bit of a back seat. At these lower temps there was virtually no astringency or bitterness. As I said in the title... a wonderful Gyokuro. Can't wait for the next session with this tea.
I'm a relative tea novice but knew I liked the umami notes in green tea. Boy did this deliver. I think I brewed it at slightly too high a temperature the first time I made it, and it came out overwhelmingly umami-y, almost brothy. At 175F and in a teapot with more room it produced a strong but pleasant seaweed flavor.
This year's batch is a yummy gyokuro, and I'd say is the best of the three I've had from Path of Cha (although I did like the subtle freeze-dried strawberry aroma that was present on the dry leaves of last year's batch, very unique and enticing).
The umami is there and not as in-your-face as some I've had; very nice and approachable. Notes of steamed spinach, sweet canned corn, meat notes closer to pork vs baked trout, with some playful bitterness most likely due to the smaller leaf size...I recommend brewing gently to coax out maximum sweetness:
Steep 1: 50° for 75 seconds
Steep 2: 60° for 75 seconds
Steep 3: 65° for 75 seconds
Definitely worth a buy
Upon taking my first sip of this tea, the first thing that struck me was how unique this tea is even among Japanese green teas- the buzz from all of the caffeine and amino acids that this tea is so rich in followed close behind. That being said, even if I could afford it, I wouldn't replace my morning coffee with this stuff on the sole principle that the combination of sweetness and umami (sans any sort of bitterness or astringency) really isn't something to be taken for granted.
Besides, I'd probably just want to brew another cup rather than get myself out the door.