Kickass umami. It’s been two years since we’ve dared
carry this tea, and we’re happy to say it’s been worth the wait.
Slow-tea processed, shade grown to concentrate the chlorophyll,
please sip in silence. Click here for tips on how to brew gyokuro.
More about GyokuroGyokuro plants have quite a diet. The tea bush must digest abundant nitrogen from soil in order to produce chlorophyll. Artisan farmers have developed very unique composting and fertilization techniques that maximize the availability of nitrogen in the soil for the stressed Gyokuro tea bushes to eat during shading. Special recipes and preparation methods for fertilizers include various blends that are not limited to composted bonemeal, manures, organic green materials, fish, seaweed, straw, pressed oil seeds and the waste of soya beans. The result of the artisan farmers’ care during the stressful shading period is a strong and vivid green tea plant with juicy buds and tender leaves. The shading of the tea bushes and the proper fertilization of the soil create Gyokuro’s unique flavor and mouth feel. Sunlight is the energy used by the tea plant to grow its leaves. The shading of the tea bushes blocks the Sunlight and facilitates very slow growth of the 1st flush leaf and bud. At the start of 1st flush spring harvest, the immature tea leaves and buds have abundant levels of the amino acids including L-theanine. Amino acids in tea are related to the umami flavor and rich mouth feel found in spring tea. The amino acid L-theanine has many health benefits. As the season progresses and the tealeaves and buds mature, the L-theanine in the leaf is converted to catechin. Tea catechins are a natural antioxidant in tea that creates a sharp, brisk, astringent property often associated with green tea. As the season progresses from Spring to Summer, the Sunlight get stronger and the weather becomes hotter. This causes tealeaves to mature faster. As the Sunlight gets stronger and weather gets hotter, the content of L-theanine in the leaf decreases while the content of catechins increase. This is why the most tender, less astringent teas are plucked in the early spring when the Sunlight is shrouded in cool mists and the leaves grow at a slower rate. In the case of Gyokuro, shading minimizes the conversion of L-theanine to catechin by keeping the tealeaves and bud sets in a slow-growing state of immaturity that are harvested at the peak times (when L-theanine and caffeine are peaked and catechin is at the right balance) so Gyokuro has a smooth mouthfeel with rich umami and sweet flavors. Gyokuro is devoid of bitterness or sharpness with a flavor unlike any other tea. Gyokuro has the highest content of L-theanine of any leaf tea, rivaled only by the powdered green tea known as Matcha. The consumption of l-theanine has been linked to increased alpha brain wave production and is considered a natural antidepressant and stress reliever. Studies in Japan have linked the consumption of L-theanine with strengthening the immune system function. L-theanine is often added to energy drinks and is known to give a 6-hour boost of sustainable energy. A few strong cups of Gyokuro offer a much more sustainable source of energy than any coffee or energy drink without the sugar, added chemicals or the caffeine crash. Authentic Gyokuro is matured for at least six months to one year before it is released for sale. Typically, as a rule, the high end Gyokuro we drink this year was harvested last year. Inferior grades have typically not yet matured, and medium grades are often blends of matured Gyokuro with fresh Gyokuro and a percentage of Kabuse. Samovar’s Gyokuro is typically released after one year, especially Uji tea. Gyokuro is very expensive and often times the farms that produce the highest quality Gyokuro also produce Tencha for ceremonial quality Matcha, which is even more expensive than Gyokuro. The small yields each year, the small scale of the Gyokuro gardens, the scarcity and high cost of land in Japan as well as the pain staking shading and fertilization techniques all contribute to the high cost of Gyokuro. Most of all, Gyokuro demand in Japan is very strong but the supply is so limited. The best Gyokuro is reserved for top tea houses in Japan and is often times given as a gift to distinguished guests, politicians and celebrities.