A young monk once asked the wise tea master Lao Cha:
— Sensei, how can we make green tea not only to be 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 just 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 special processing results in a tea with a sweet, mild flavor and fresh, flowery-green aroma. Gyokuro tea bushes are being shaded from direct sunlight for 20 days prior to harvesting. This makes the tea plant stack on theanine which gives Gyokuro tea leaves their sweetness. Afterward, the leaves are immediately steamed, dried, and carefully rolled into distinctive shapes resembling pine needles.
How to brew Gyokuro: