Gyokuro Hiki is a genuine Japanese green tea characterized by the full shading (housing) of the tea plants with several net layers. It is the careful, traditional handcrafting that makes this Gyokuro from the valleys of the Hiki River, Wakayama Prefecture, a particular rarity. The handwork visually manifests in the appearance of the long, needle-shaped, fir-green tea leaves. The bright, clear greenish-light yellow shimmering liquor impresses with fresh grass notes and intensively sweet, fully aromatic “umami”.
What is Gyokuro?
In principle, Gyokuro (Japanese: “jade dew”) is a special subtype of Japanese Sencha tea. Within this category, along with Kabusecha, it comprises the sub-category of shaded green teas. However, the two are distinct in degree and period of shading.
The former, “Kabuse Tea”, or “Kabuse Cha”, uses comparably coarse-meshed nets (kabuse” nets: UV filtration ca. 50% ) for up to 2 weeks before picking. In contrast, the tea bushes for gyokuro are “housed” with several layers of closer meshed nets, filtering out up to 90% of the sunlight for an even longer period of 2-3 weeks. During this period, the near-total withdrawal of light triggers activities in the tea plant that lead to an altered composition of active ingredients. As a result, amounts of amino acids (e.g. Theanine) and alkaloids (e.g. Caffeine, Theophyllin) increase, while bitterns (e.g. Catechine) are reduced. Tastewise, the full shading results in a considerably higher sweetness of the tea. Also, the tea’s aroma and deep green color intensify through the procedure.
In order to achieve an optimal exploitation of active ingredients and to prevent oxidation processes, the freshly picked deep green tea leaves undergo steaming, cooling and rolling procedue right after picking. This part of the processing mainly resembles that of other Japanese Sencha teas. The long period of full shading is responsible for the tea’s unique, intensely sweet “umami” flavor that has earned Gyokuro the reputation of being the most delicate type of tea in Japan.
Dose Gyokuro Tokiwa tea leaves into preparatin vessel and pour over with water of appropriate temperature (see below). Then, let infuse according to below recommendation or personal preference. Finally, pour out into previously prepared drinking vessels or tea cups.
Preparation vessel: Best suitable for the preparation of Japanese green teas such as Gyokuro, Sencha, Kabusecha or Shincha Teas are clay vessels. In Japan, this will usually be either a “shiboridashi” or a Kyusu teapot. Alternatively, of course, you can also use a Chinese teapot). If none of these at hand, you will achieve comparably desirable results using a China bone or a glass teapot.
Water: For the preparation of our Gyokuro Tokiwa Green Tea , we recommend using as soft as possible (low lime) water of a temperature of 60-65°C
Dosage: While a tendency to higher dosing previals in Japan, dosing 4g tea leaves on 200ml water is a good initial approach. You might start your exploration from there and adjust parameters to your own taste and preferences. As a rule of thumb, the higher the dosage, the more intensive both color and taste of the resulting green tea.
Infusion period: When dosing according to above recommendation, let infuse for 1-2 minutes for a first steep. This way, a second (0.5-1 minutes) and third infusion (1-2 minutes) will also run up to full potential. At higher doses, you should shorten the duration of brewing accordingly. Thus, more tasty infusions become possible.
Drinking vessels: In Japan, Gyokuro tea is served in smaller to medium-sized teacups (“Chawan” or “Yunomi”). However, the exact style and size are freely adaptable to actual requirements, i.e. situation and mood.
More information on Gyokuro and a comprehensible overview of Japanese green teas provides my pertaining blog article: