Today we would like to introduce you to one of our highest quality green teas: the Hon Gyokuro Kusanagi. The Gyokuro is one of the shadow teas and translates as “noble jadedew”. Find out more about this fascinating tea here!

 

Gyokuro Green Tea
Overshadowed tea plants in Japan

 

What is Gyokuro Tea?

Gyokuro is Japanese and means “noble jade dew”. It is a green tea from Japan, which is overshadowed before harvest ingessing with special nets. Due to the shading, less sunlight penetrates the plants. The plants react to this with an increased production of chlorophyll and form a variety of amino acids. The increased amount of chlorophyll gives the tea a rich, deep green color. The amino acids give the tea a more complex taste and a tasty umami, which is typical of green teas from Japan.

The overshadowing of the tea plants is extremely complex and expensive. As a result, the Gyokuro is considered one of the most expensive and renowned teas from Japan, along with the green tea powder Matcha.

 

Production of Gyokuro

Making a truly first-class green tea is not so easy. In the case of Gyokuro, the location and type of shading used is of paramount interest. A sustainable and respectful approach to nature is also of the utmost importance.

Cultivation

As with all teas, the field care and supply of tea plants is an important topic at Gyokuro. After harvesting, the tea plants are usually cut back so that they reach a desired shape and can put all their energy into new, fresh leaf shoots in spring. The hibernation of tea plants is also important in Japan. As the northern tea-growing region of the world, it often gets quite cold in Japan in winter. In order to protect the tea plants against frost bite, the Japanese tea farmers have come up with some cunning incursions.

As soon as the temperatures go against the freezing point, the plants are sprinkled with water. Due to the cold, a layer of ice quickly forms on the tea leaves. This may sound stupid at first, because the plants should be protected from the cold. However, the cold circulating air is what harms the teest smokes. The layer of ice on the leaves rather preserves the leaves and protects them from the surrounding air. In addition, the Japanese tea cultivare are specially designed for the climate in Japan. Many varieties such as the Yabukita Cultivar are resistant to cold and extreme weather conditions.

Our Hon Gyokuro Kusanagi also does not use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. A respectful and sustainable approach to nature is and is important, which is why we only buy tea from sustainable cultivation.

Region

Our Hon Gyokuro Kusanagi is native to the Uji region of Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. The Uji region is considered the historical heart of tea culture in Japan. Even today, the highest quality teas in the whole of Japan are still produced here. Shadow tea is generally grown throughout Japan. The most important growing area is of course Uji, but also the prefecture of Kagoshima or Shizuoka produces high-class top quality.

The geographical location is particularly important for the production of good gyokuro. As with wine, it is recommended to grow tea on a hilly mountainside, so that the plants do not get too much sun by nature. The Uji region is therefore perfect for the production of shade tea, because the region has many hills and mountains.

Overshadowing

To overshadow the valuable tea plants, nets made of black plastic are used. The nets do not block all sunlight, but only a fraction of it at a time. In which the tea farmer superimposes several individual nets on top of each other, he can determine exactly how much percent of the sunlight penetrates through the plants. Towards the end of the shading period, up to 95 of the sunlight is blocked.

But what makes a Gyokuro a Hon Gyokuro? In particularly noble green teas, the tea plants are not covered with black nets, but with rice straw mats. This is also the case with our Hon Gyokuro Kusanagi. The overshadowing with straw mats is much more complex than with the black nets, because the mats all have to be laboriously laid on the scaffolding by hand and cannot be simply pulled over the field. It is also more difficult to ensure uniform overshadowing with this shading method. The advantage of shading with straw mats is that less heat builds under the cover and the air can circulate better. In contrast, with a conventional shading, it can be quite warm and stuffy under the cover tarpaulins.

 

Harvesting process

Gyokruo Picking Japan Green Tea
Mobile Harvesting Machine

With a massive shortage of workers in Japan, the vast majority of teas are picked with complex harvesters. These harvesters are able to pick incredibly precise and accurate. Also our Hon Gyokuro Kusanagi is picked with such a harvester. There are two harvesting methods for machine harvesting:

  • Hand-guided machine picking, common in mountainous regions such as Uji
  • Driving machine picking, only possible in flat regions such as Kagoshima

For Gyokuro, only the top 1-3 leaves of the tea plant are harvested and processed. These leaves are rich with good ingredients and bursting full of flavor!

Gyokruo Picking Hand Guided
Machine-guided picking

Hiring agricultural workers in Japan involves a great deal of cost, which is why only the highest quality teas are still picked by hand. This is usually done by Japanese seniors who want to earn something in retirement or are looking for a job in nature. With particularly high-quality gyokuro, the tea field is harvested only once in spring.

 

How should a good Gyokuro taste?

Gyokuro is something special, which is why it should taste just like that: especially. Japanese green teas are often fresh, gaseous and intense, but do not offer a huge range of flavour sathings. This is fine with a tea like the Sencha, but with a tea as expensive and noble as the Gyokuro we are looking for more complexity and depth. Our Hon Gyokuro Kusanagi offers not only a deep umami but also light spicy notes. Across the infusions, the taste changes from a round, full drink to something fresh and almost flowery. Gyokuro can usually be poured a little more often than Sencha. Around the four to five infusions are definitely possible!

It is often said that green tea should have positive properties on health. Is that true? Find out in our review about green tea & health!

 

Hon Gyokuro Kusanagi Green Tea
Freshly poured green tea

Storage of Gyokuro

In Japan, the vast majority of green teas have a shelf life of only three to six months, but not with gyokuro. Because the Gyokuro is one of the few green teas that can be stored and matured. Many shade teas are not sold immediately after harvest, but stored for half a year. Unlike the Sencha or the Shincha, gyokuro doesn’t want a sparkling fresh taste experience, but something round, soft and full-bodied. In order for the fresh tea to lose its corners and edges, it is therefore stored for a few months.

It is best to store your tea in a cool, dry and protected from light. Our resealable tea bags are perfect for this. Also make sure that there is not too much air in the open tea bag. Otherwise, the tea in the bag could oxidize.

Fancy getting Gyokuro?

Have we convinced you? Then check out the Organic Hon Gyokuro Kusanagi in our online shop now! With us you will also find many more great teas from Japan, Taiwan or Nepal. We look forward to your visit!

This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)