What is Gyokuro? (information on the tea and the best way to drink it)

Gyokuro is the tea produced through a process where, when about 2 to 3 new buds begin to open on the tea plant, a roof is placed above the plants for about 20 days, to allow them to grow in limited sunlight. By limiting the amount of light they receive while raising the new buds, the transformation of amino acids (theanine) into catechin is slowed, creating a less astringent flavor with great umami. The unique scent, reminiscent of seaweed, is a hallmark of the tea.

In order to make a tasty brew, it’s best to use hot water which has cooled slightly. For especially premium teas, the way in which the tea is brewed makes a large difference in flavor.

1. Delicious methods for brewing Gyokuro by rank
2. Why are these the best ways to brew Gyokuro?
3. How Gyokuro is produced

Those who are just looking to learn how best to brew Gyokuro can read just the beginning, but and understanding of the reasons behind these methods will serve you when when you’re brewing all kinds of tea.

Brewing Gyokuro is a more intensive process than brewing any other kind of Japanese tea. I hope that through this high level of brewing, you’ll be able to experience some of the umami of Japanese tea.

# Delicious methods for brewing Gyokuro for each rank

The best method for drinking tea is different for premium teas than it is for low raking teas.

To fully enjoy teas which have quite a bit of umami, I recommend brewing them slowly with slightly cooled hot water.
For especially high-quality teas, you will find that by putting effort into brewing them you can surprise yourself with the quality of flavor you can produce.

By our company’s guidelines, the recommended way to brew premium Gyokuro which is over ¥1,700 for 100 g is as follows.
* The most accurate combinations will vary for the different products, so please reference the individual product pages.

Temperature: 60 degrees Celsius
Tea leaves: 8 g (about 2 tablespoons full)
Amount of water: 80 ml
Brewing time: 2 minutes

Teas which are around ¥1,200 to ¥1,600 per 100 g contain less umami, so the ideal method for brewing is as follows.

Temperature: 70 degrees Celsius
Tea leaves: 8 g (about 2 tablespoons full)
Amount of water: 100 ml
Brewing time: 1 minute (the brewing time is shortened with the higher temperature)

For Gyokuro teas which are below the ¥1,000 per 100g rank, the brewing method is as follows.

Temperature: 80 degrees Celsius
Tea leaves: 6 g (about 2 tablespoons)
Amount of water: 100 ml
Brewing time: 1 minute (the brewing time is shortened with the higher temperature)

* For the teas we sell of this rank, we recommend drinking with the yumawashi method. It’s quite simple, and you can reference this page to see how.

*There are Gyokuro teas of each rank which contain a large amount of powdery tea. These are teas which have been processed with the fukamushi method.

In such a case, decreasing the brewing time by 30% will help create a clean taste and improve the flavor.

### Tips on how to brew Gyokuro

For Gyokuro, the higher quality the tea, the better off you are brewing it slowly at a lower temperature.

Why is this the way Gyokuro is drunk?

This is because the higher in rank Gyokuro is, the more umami it contains.

The next figure is a representation of the amount of umami contained within tea leaves. The reality is more complicated, but I’m including this in the hope it will simplify things a bit.

The elements contained in tea leaves can be roughly split into those which contribute to astringency, and those which contribute to umami.

As you can see in the figure above, especially premium Gyokuro generally contains a higher amount of umami compounds. Gyokuro which is mid-ranking or lower moves closer and closer to the levels of Kabusecha.

At lower temperatures, these compounds take longer to dissolve, which is why the brewing time necessary becomes longer.

The important point here is that the compounds responsible for umami will begin to dissolve at lower temperatures, but those responsible for astringency will only dissolve at higher temperatures.

In order to bring out the best in Gyokuro, which is high in umami, it’s important to use lower temperature hot water to slowly extract the umami.

By doing this you can enjoy the unique flavor of the Gyokuro.

Now, I do get asked whether it’s bad to brew Gyokuro with hotter water.

There isn’t anything wrong with doing this. You’ll be able to enjoy tea with a strong umami flavor, and a gentle astringency.

However, by extracting just the umami you’ll be able to bring out the unique flavor of Gyokuro which really packs a punch, and emphasizing this is typically how Gyokuro is enjoyed, which is why I recommend it.

There’s nothing wrong with people who say they enjoy the taste of Gyokuro brewed hot, and we see them among our customers as well.

## Why does Gyokuro contain so much umami?

Next I’ll explain a bit about why Gyokuro contains so much umami. The secret to this is the way the tea is farmed.

Take a look at this photo of a tea field.

The part of the field which appears black is the section which has been covered with a black cover to shade the plants from sunlight. While it changes depending on the type of tea and the season, plants will be shaded from up to 80% or 90% of the sun’s light. Shading the plants limits photosynthesis, and makes it harder for theanine to change into catechin or tannins. Tea which is rich in theanine and low in catechin has a large amount of umami, and a small amount of astringency.

Shading the plats places a large amount of stress on the leaves, and produces a different taste than that of Sencha.

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