Less than one percent of the entire tea grown in Japan ends up as gyokuro. Because of the specific way of growing, this rare high-quality green tea is among the most expensive in Japan. Valued in his homeland as one of the best green teas, gyokuro is now gaining more popularity among tea lovers around the world with its naturally sweet taste and delicate flavor.
How is it special
Gyokuro tea is made from the same tea trees used for production of Sencha. While during the production of Sencha, trees are lit by the sun all year round, tea trees used to produce Gyokuro are covered about twenty days before harvest and the tea is grown under shade. The reduction of sunlight leads to decreased photosynthesis of the plant and as a result, it produces more chlorophyll. This changes the ratio of sugars, amino acids and caffeine in the tea leaves, which affects their color, aroma and taste. Limitation of sunlight results in mild and sweet taste. Gyokuro is produced only from the first leaves of tea trees spring harvest. The trees are harvested by hand; the leaves are lightly steamed to prevent oxidation then the process of rolling and air-drying of the leaves begins. Unlike sencha, gyokuro is not placed on the market immediately after production. The tea is retained for several months, enough time for the leaves to mature well and get their mild taste.
The different preparation
Just like sencha, gyokuro is prepared as the leaves are brewed in a pot of hot but not boiling water. And here the differences begin. The water temperature used with this kind of Japanese tea is much lower – between 50 and 60 degrees. The perfect water temperature is achieved as the hot water is poured into a container for cooling water and allowed to sit for a minute or two, the water is then pouredin gyokuro tea cups (with every transfer of the water from one vessel to another, it is cooled by about 10 degrees). Filling of cups with hot water serves one more purpose – to heat the ceramic cups as they will maintain the ideal temperature of the drink. After cooling of the water, it is poured into a pot. The amount of tea that is used is double compared with sencha. The general rule is: one gram of tea per 30 ml. of water. Tea is ready between 2 and 3 minutes and after the leaves have unfolded. Is is distributed into cups by pouring consecutively small amount of tea in each cup. After the first brewing the tea leaves can be brewed again (up to five times). And something interesting and unique about this type of tea – gyokuro leaves are edible and have a very pleasant taste.
Gyokuro contains high levels of the catechin EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). These natural polyphenols are strong antibacterial and antiviral agents, they strengthen the walls of capillaries and promote the release of the body’s toxic compounds. Many scientists believe that EGCG plays positive role in the body’s fight against cancer.
Like other Japanese green teas, gyokuro is a powerful antioxidant, accelerates metabolism and fat burning. Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing the accumulation of fat deposits in the arteries, helps increase the level of good cholesterol and to lower total cholesterol levels. Reduces the risk of diabetes by keeping blood sugar at healthy rates.