The English translation for Gyokuro is Jade Dew, which is a reference to its gemstone-like color and naturally sweet flavor. Gyokuro is grown from the tea varietal known as Yabukita, which is a small leaf, sweet tea that is used in many of Japan's highest quality green teas. Gyokuro is made only with the earliest leaf buds of the spring harvest. The tea is grown under shade cover (using reed or straw screens) for 20 days before harvesting begins. Growing the tea in diffuse sunlight reduces photosynthesis in the young leaf buds. As a result, the tea plant produces more chlorophyll, which changes the proportions of the sugars, amino acids, caffeine and flavanols that contribute to the color, aroma and taste. Less exposure to sunlight results in a mild and sweet flavor and less astringency.
History and Culture
Okabe Town is located north west of Shizuoka Town. The alpine river called Asahina River runs through the town, and both sides are surrounded by very steep mountains. The Asahina District which is located at the north of Okabe Town has hilly lands, and thanks to the typical mountain weather, it is suitable for producing good quality tea. Tea is produced here since the Muromachi Era. Gyokuro was invented in 1835. In old days, Gyokuro tea garden was covered by the bundles rice straw. Nowadays, Asahina (Shizuoka), Uji (Kyoto) and Yame (Fukuoka) are three major Gyokuro manufacturing areas in Japan. Around 30 days in advance before plucking the leaves, Gyokuro tea garden is covered. The penetration rate of sunshine in the beginning of 7-10 days is 65-70%, and from then onwards the penetration rate is 97-98%.
The theanine, which is a kind of amino acid, is produced from the root and is transferred to the stem and leaves. Theanine is the substance contributing to the umami and sweet taste in green tea. Green tea which contains higher percentage of theanine gives a amino acid taste which is called Umami in Japanese and nowadays also in English. On the contrary, tea leaves which contain a higher proportion of polyphenol such as catechin gives a bitter taste. When tea leaves are exposed to sufficient sunshine, theanine is degraded and converted into catechin. Therefore, blocking out the sunshine will inhibit the biosynthesis of catechin and theanine is proportionally increased. In other words, the typical taste of Gyokuro is made by blocking out the sunshine from the tea leaves. During this process, the tea leaves get steamed, which in turn produces a substance called dimethylsulphite that gives typical seaweed flavor. The brewed Gyokuro leaves are very deep green in color compared with Sencha which is yellowish green in color. When the tea garden is covered and no sufficient sunshine reaches the tea leaves, it will rise to the surface of the tea leaves and produce more of chlorophyll, the green pigment in tea leaves, in order to carry out photosynthesis. This is the reason why the color of Gyokuro is a deep green shade.
◆ Origin: Yame, Fukuoka, Giappone.
◆ Tasting & Appearance: Gyokuro has a noble mellow and sweet taste: once drink, you find its flavor amazingly long lasting and taste lingers on your throat for a long time. You feel a kind of sweetness that stays very long in your throat.
◆ Notes & Well Being: Gyokuro, like all green teas, is an unfermented tea containing a variety of natural compounds, including flavonoids, polyphenols and proanthocyanidins. Some of these chemicals are potent antioxidants that destroy free radicals, metabolic byproducts or environmental toxins that may damage cellular membranes. Free radicals contribute to aging and numerous health problems such as heart disease. Practitioners of traditional Asian medicine use gyokuro to treat many ailments, including heart problems, diabetes and digestive disorders. Modern research indicates that gyokuro has significant health benefits.
Dose of tea
1 Tsp. for 6oz Cup
160°F - 170°F
2 - 3 Minutes