Gyokuro tea is considered the most precious and most noble of all teas. Why is this tea the finest or best Japanese green 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. With dark green needle-shaped leaves, this Japanese green tea is unique and quite rare. Gyokuro has a sweet, soft marine-like flavor and amazing fragrance. It is unlike that of any tea you have ever tasted and no tea collection would be complete without it.
Gyokuro is shaded longer than kabuse tea (lit., "covered tea"). While gyokuro is shaded for approximately three 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 tea is grown in different conditions from other green teas. It undergoes a special process to alter the chemical composition of its leaves. Gyokuro is grown in a misty and rainy climate at a lower altitude than sencha, a more common Japanese green tea.
There are a number of steps in the production of gyokuro. These include:
A few weeks before plucking, the tea bush is covered with black curtains or bamboo and straw shades, filtering about 90% of the sunlight. Shading defines the character of the tea by reducing the photosynthesis process and so increasing the chlorophyll content. The leaves become dark green and the tannin content is reduced, making a sweeter and less astringent tea. As a result, you will get a pure and fresh tea.
Harvesting and Steaming
Only the youngest buds are picked once a year in the springtime, called the first flush, so it is quite a rare tea to find in stores. Once plucked the leaves are immediately steamed to stop the oxidation process and preserve their characteristic flavor.
Once the Gyokuro green tea leaves are cooled down, they then undergo several stages of rolling in order to soften the leaves, promote drying and to allow them to acquire their delicate needle shape.
Drying & Firing
To further reduce their moisture, the leaves are dried again. By this stage, the tea leaves are called "aracha" and will be sorted into several grades named "tencha". The finest grades of tencha will make Gyokuro tea come to life. The leaves are then fired to reduce the moisture one last time, thus making this tea last longer and enhancing its flavor.
Finally the leaves are aged for several months before packaging and shipping to tea shops around the world. This is an art that requires dedication, patience and skillfulness, allowing you to experience a truly calming and refreshing moment in the immense world of green tea and its benefits.
Though it is categorised 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. The tea was first discovered by Yamamotoyama's sixth owner, Yamamoto Kahei, in 1835. 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 Health Benefits
Gyokuro tea is rich in antioxidants, which means that every cup of tea you drink may provide you with wonderful health benefits that will make you feel great.
Burn Fat and Build Muscle
Drinking unsweetened green tea at meals or during the day may help you to lose any extra pounds you may have and still make you feel energetic and strong. Green tea antioxidants, namely EGCG, speed up your metabolism, burning calories and fat much faster. Combine it with a balanced diet and exercise and you will feel it working every step of the way, improving your overall well-being.
You can even eat Gyokuro green tea leaves, since they are so soft and tender. Try eating them with soy sauce and lemon juice. Try this and then create your own green tea recipes.
Lower Cancer Risk
Again thanks to its high content of antioxidants, Gyokuro green tea is able to fight free radicals, which are responsible for the growth of tumors. Gyokuro tea will strengthen your immune system, making it able to fight harmful bacteria and reduce the risk of cancer.
Drink this and other green teas on a daily basis to help prevent disease and premature cell aging.
Green tea contains caffeine and theanine, and Gyokuro tea, due to the leaves being less exposed to sunlight than any other green tea, has a higher amount of caffeine than most. However, caffeine in tea works as a healthier stimulant than caffeine in coffee, as it is released progressively throughout the day. This means it will enhance your cognition and alertness, shorten your reaction time, stimulate your heart and improve your concentration.
Therefore, if you are looking for an energy boost that lasts longer, without getting stressed, Gyokuro is a great coffee alternative.
Improve Heart Health
Do you wish to keep your heart healthy and strong? Drinking tea on a regular basis is a good way to do it. Every drop of tea fills your body with minerals, nutrients, antioxidants and vitamins that reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, by lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) and regulating your blood sugars levels.
Always take your Gyokuro tea unsweetened and it will help lower blood pressure and protect you from dangerous toxins.
Other good news is presence of fluoride and minerals in your Gyokuro tea. As a green tea it will help clean your mouth. It will act as an antiviral agent, preventing bacterial infections, dental plaque and tooth decay. Your breath will be fresher and you will have reasons to smile because a healthy mouth is the first step to a healthy digestive system.