I’m obsessed with tea.
No, not bagged tea. I don’t mind bagged tea (not even Lipton! I’ve used it before, and I’ll use it again), but when I have access to loose leaf, why would I go with bagged?
Green teas, brewed properly, are my favorite. And Gyokuro is definitely the best. It’s Japan’s highest quality tea, and is a phenomenal one.
“Gyokuro” (玉露) is Japanese for “jewel/jade dew”. It’s a shaded green tea. What that means is that at least 20 days before harvesting, a particular varietal of the Camellia sinensis plant (either Asahi, Okumidori, Yamakai, or Saemidori) is shielded, usually with bamboo, from the sun. This forces a process in which theanine and caffeine within the leaves is increased, yielding a unique, interesting aroma and flavor.
The brewing process is also rather unique. The reason for this is, specifically, the water temperature. You see, most green tea is fragile. Try to steep it with full on boiling water, and what you end up with is a nasty, bitter, undrinkable mess of a brew. And especially with a tea as expensive as Gyokuro, that’s a complete waste. Gyokuro specifically calls for water temperature range of 122°F–140°F (50°C–60°C).
And how do you brew it, exactly?
I have always found the flavor to be quite interesting. I find it rich and full-bodied. I also find it… almost… well…
I find that, when it’s a tad too bitter, but still drinkable with something added, a tiny bit of salt goes better with the flavor then sugar or anything sweet. In fact, I find that any kind of sugar, be it regular sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, honey, artificial sweetener, etc clashes so much with the natural flavors of the Gyokuro that I’d almost prefer the bitter brew. Salt, on the other hand, enhances it.
The reason is because Gyokuro should almost be a broth. The taste should typify umami (meaty or brothy… brothy is much more accurate in this case; it absolutely does not taste “meaty”). It should coat your mouth like a typical broth does. There will always be some light astringency, but if you picked your Gyokuro well and brewed it correctly, there should be very little. And if you’re particularly sensitive to astringent/bitter flavors (like me), barely a dash of salt should be enough to cover it and bring out the other flavors.
And for your enjoyment, here’s a short video showing the harvesting of Gyokuro and Tencha, which is the tea used to make Matcha: