|Other names||玉露, jewel dew / jade dew / pearl dew / precious dew|
|Quick description||One of the highest grades of Japanese tea.|
Gyokuro (Japanese: 玉 露, "jade dew") is a type of shaded green tea from Japan. It differs from the standard sencha (a classic unshaded green tea) in being grown under the shade rather than the full sun. Gyokuro is shaded longer than kabuse tea (lit., "covered tea"). While gyokuro is shaded for approximately three to four weeks, kabuse-cha is shaded for approximately one week. The name "gyokuro" translates as "jewel dew" (or "jade dew", referring to the pale green colour of the infusion). While most sencha is from the Yabukita (薮北) cultivar of Camellia sinensis, gyokuro is often made from a specialized variety such as Asahi, Okumidori, Yamakai, and Saemidori.
Gyokuro is native to Japan and is traditionally prepared differently from other green teas.
Since gyokuro is typically steeped at a lower temperature than most other teas, it is common practice to preheat the teaware to ensure a more steady brewing temperature during steeping time and to prolong the warmth of the lower-temperature tea. One standard method is to heat the water at a higher temperature, pour it into and between the various teaware, and finally into the brewing vessel containing the tea leaves. When done properly, by the time the water has transferred between the various teaware and into the brewing vessel it has cooled to appropriate temperature and the teaware has been warmed. One reason for the lower steeping temperature is to preserve the subtle and delicate sweet notes in most gyokuro. On the other hand, it is possible to steep at higher temperatures to bring out more of the vegetable and briny qualities, but usually at risk of homogenizing or removing the sweet notes while increasing bitterness.
Using a premium Yamecha cv. yabukita gyokuro with 1.1 grams of tea per 30 mL (1 US fl oz) of water.
1st Steep: 120 s at 60 °C (140 °F).
2nd Steep: 30 s at 65 °C (150 °F).
3rd Steep: 30 s at 70 °C (160 °F).
4th Steep: 40 s at 75 °C (165 °F).
5th Steep: 40 s at 80 °C (175 °F).
6th Steep: 40 s at 90 °C (195 °F).
Though it is categorized as a type of sencha according to production methods, gyokuro cultivation differs from other sencha teas. Gyokuro tea leaves are shielded from the sun for at least 20 days with straw mats before being harvested. This causes both the amino acid theanine and the alkaloid caffeine in the tea leaves to increase, which yields a sweet flavour. The tea also gains a distinct aroma from the covering process. This type of cultivation is also used in producing tencha, (碾茶) but records indicate this process had already been developed in the Azuchi-Momoyama period.
Gyokuro is one of the most expensive types of sencha available in Japan. The name was originally the product name of the tea made by the Yamamotoyama Tea Company (Japanese). The tea was first discovered by Yamamotoyama's sixth owner, Yamamoto Kahei, in 1835 (Tenpō year 6). The process was completed by another manufacturer at the start of the Meiji period.
The greatest appellation of gyokuro in terms of both quality and quantity is Yamecha, which is produced in Yame in Fukuoka Prefecture. More than 40% of gyokuro is produced in Yame, and in the national tea jury in August 2007, Yamecha held all the ranking positions from first to 26th as the best gyokuro. The Uji district is the oldest gyokuro-producing region in Japan.
Gyokuro should not be confused with "tamaryokucha", a tea produced in the Kyushu region. Tamaryokucha also has a sweet flavour, but its production process differs from that of gyokuro.