One of the most exhilarating Japanese tea I enjoy is Gyokuro which is also known as Jade Dew. I discovered the joy of this tea in the early 1990s when I was under the informal tutelage of a local teamaster who specialises in Japanese and Taiwanese tea.
Gyokuro is often considered as one of the highest grade of Japanese teas. Its tea leaves are normally covered with shade 2-3 weeks before harvesting, preventing L-Theanine from converting to polyphenols (catechin), which cause astringency and bitterness in tea. L-Theanine, a natural flavourful compound, has the intensity of seaweed or unami taste. This is what makes the tea so delicious and enjoyable. Without astringency and bitterness, the tea is extremely sweet and full bodied with delectable aftertaste.
I usually like to brew gyokoru with a flat teapot. The tea leaves are laid to cover the bottom of the teapot with just enough hot water to cover over the tea leaves. Like in most teas brewing techniques, there is no fixed parameter, but constant calibrations to achieve the brew we look for.
A general guide to brew Gyokuro would be, enough hot water (from 40-60 degree Celsius) to cover over the tea leaves for about 90-120 seconds. Occasionally, I flash brew Gyokuro at 100 degrees Celcius to explore a different dimension of taste profile of the tea. Gyokuro also excel in cold brewing method. It is certainly an interesting exploration and can be applied to other types of green tea too.
The process of brewing Gyokuro is meditative and contemplating. There are generous amount of time to relax while waiting for the water temperature to cool down. Slow brewing creates a quiet and relax atmosphere. Our awareness and sense of being in tea is heighten by its subtle and delicate brewing.
The tea is best drunk in small sips with a drifting mind and thoughtful observation, to enjoy its sweet and exquisite flavour and mesmerising aroma. The aftertaste lingers on and on, reminiscing its charm and elegance.
Gyokuro is certainly one of the very enjoyable and exhilarating tea.