Gyokuro Asahi

General info

Although some sources claim that shaded growing was practiced as early as the beginning of the 17th century, the first Gyokuro tea was officially produced during Edo period (1603-1868) in 1835 in Uji, by Kahei Yamamoto. Gyokuro is the most precious tea produced in Japan processed entirely by hand, and meticulous care is taken at every stage of its production. The distinctive characteristic of this process is that the fields in which it is grown are shaded for three weeks before harvesting, so 80-95% of the sun's rays are blocked.

Gyokuro Asahi infused leaves

The purpose of shading is to filter the light, so that the tea tree, unable to fully carry out photosynthesis, releases more chlorophyll and amino acids and fewer tannins, into the leaves. In particular, L-theanine was discovered and isolated in 1949 in a gyokuro leaf, and is responsible for its unique savoury (umami) flavour. While the exact effects of a combination of theanine with other constituents of gyokuro is still under research, it is believed to potentially reduce mental and physical stress, improve memory and boost mood and cognitive performance, so it's sometimes used as a nootropic.

Preparation

  • Kyusu teapot, "modern Kyusu" tasting

  • Temperature: 130°F (54°C)

  • Amount of tea: 1/3 of the teapot

  • Time: 50/40/40s

Personal notes

Remarkable dark green needles produce pale yellow-green smooth liquor with fresh umami flavour, grassy and slightly seaweed notes and sweet aftertaste with little to no astringency. Pro tip: after subsequent brews, eat the gyokuro leaves with ponzu sauce and a bit of toasted sesame seeds - delicious.