Intense, refined, with marine notes and a sweet, rounded, velvety flavor: Gyokuro tea is one of the finest quality Japanese green teas in the world, also known as “precious dew” or “dew of jade”. The entire life cycle, from growing the plant right up to the special infusion technique, requires particular procedures which contribute to making it a product with a unique flavor. Here’s everything you need to know about this most refined green tea.
The cultivation and harvesting of Gyokuro tea
Growing Gyokuro tea requires the tea plantations to be completely covered with special sheets 2-3 weeks before the harvesting, which takes place in spring. This way the leaves, by spending a period of time in the shade, become enriched with chlorophyll. This phase is known as shading and is necessary because the constant sunlight would reduce the photosynthesis in the young leaf buds. If they are under cover though, the plants produce more chlorophyll, which contributes to the characteristic amber color and to the delicate and sweet, yet not too astringent flavor of this tea.
The harvesting of Gyokuro tea happens between the months of May and June: the crops are uncovered and the tea harvesting begins, picking either by hand or by machine, according to the quality of the plants. For the more precious varieties the imperial method is used, which involves picking the terminal buds of the plants and the first leaves.
Characteristics and benefits of Gyokuro green tea
The leaves of Gyokuro tea acquire their typical bright green color with marine shades, thanks to their chlorophyll content. After infusion, however, the drink assumes a pale dew color, a slightly cloudy yellow-green: it is from this characteristic that Gyokuro tea takes its name. The chlorophyll also has another function: it contributes to the perfect complexity of this drink’s flavor, characterized by vegetable tones and by a unique hint of sweetness.
Like all fermented green teas, Gyokuro contains many natural compounds, amongst which there are flavonoids and polyphenols, substances with a remarkable antioxidant effect, that act against free radicals in the body. This tea is also rich in vitamins and has low levels of tannin, and the very high levels of L-theanine it contains make it an effective natural antidepressant. Finally, Gyokuro green tea contributes to the treatment of cardiac problems, diabetes and digestive disturbances, it promotes a sense of calm and aids rest.
How Gyokuro tea is prepared
As you well know, every tea has its own peculiarities as far as preparation is concerned and respecting these is fundamental in order to obtain the best quality infusion. To prepare an excellent cup of Gyokuro tea, first of all the water temperature mustn’t be too high. The ideal temperature is 50-60°C and it can even go down to as low as 40° for the finest quality teas.
Here’s how to prepare Gyokuro tea according to the traditional method:
1. Bring the water to the boil and then let it cool in a container called yuzamashi (you can also use a wide cup), until it reaches a temperature of 75°.
2. At this point, put the water in the Japanese tea cups, leaving it to cool further. Remember that every time the water is poured from one container to another, the temperature falls by about 8°C.
3. Pour the Gyokuro tealeaves into a teapot and add the water which has reached the ideal temperature. The quantity of tea needed is around double the amount of Sencha tea needed: the proportion is 1 g of tea for every 30 ml of water. For two Japanese cups of tea, you will need around one teaspoon of tea.
4. Leave the tea to brew for about 2-3 minutes. You can re-use the tealeaves another 3-4 times, and for the following infusions you will only need about 30 seconds brewing time.
At this point there is nothing left for you to do except enjoy your cup of Gyokuro green tea: have you ever tasted this refined drink?