As the summers in the Empire of the Rising Sun grew heavy, armies of villagers descended upon the tea groves. Of all the specimens, the prize was always the Gyokuro, with its long, flat, painted leaves. Its pale green jade-like liquor, along with its smooth lingering taste, elevated its status as the most refined of Japanese connoisseur grade teas – fit for any emperor.
Also known as Precious Dew, Gyokuro is grown on emerald green plains in the Uji region, and picked only once a year, in the month of May. About three weeks before Gyokuro leaves are harvested, the entire tea garden is shaded with bamboo mats, which filter 90% of the light, causing the plant to produce more chlorophyll and less tannin.
Shading causes the theanine (amino acids) and caffeine content to increase and the catechin (acidity) level to decrease. Its leaves are delicate and fragile, requiring careful hand-sifting and blending techniques. Only the most tender, topmost leaves are selected and steamed to prevent oxidation, fired in baskets, then meticulously hand-rolled.
In past years, there has been a shortage of good supply of this tea, which has led to rising prices. In light of the recent tragedy in Japan, we have instituted radiation testing on Japanese green teas, and if necessary, Taiwanese and Chinese teas. We carefully check and have stringent standards regarding herbicide, pesticide, mold, salmonella, etc. for our teas. Adding radiation testing is part of our Total Quality Management and foodsafe hazard control practice.
This connoisseur tea requires special steeping instructions:
- Use 6 g (3 tsp) for three repeat steepings of 8 oz each.
- For the first steeping, infuse for 90 seconds below 60°C (140°F); a higher temperature will result in a higher release of tannins and a tilted balance of the vegetal flavour components.
- Infuse slightly longer for 2 minutes for the second and third steeping.
"I have used your teas in many dishes over the years. I use the Japanese tea in green tea mousse." - ICON Mark Hagan