Close

Ocha no Kanbayashi Kami Gyokuro (hot)

20160228-DSC05016

Gyokuro is a type of shaded green tea from Japan. It dif­fers from the stand­ard sen­cha by being grown under the shade rather than the full sun, and from kab­usecha by being grown under the shade for ~three, rather than ~one, week. It is one of the highest grades of Japanese green tea.

The Uji dis­trict is the old­est gyok­uro-pro­du­cing region in Japan. So, of course, we sourced this Ocha no Kanbayashi Kami Gyokuro when we vis­ited the shop in Uji dur­ing our 2015 Japan trip. We’d sampled their highest grade (‎¥10,800 or ~$135 per 100g), which you can eat dry, before set­tling for this more afford­able kami gyok­uro. To enjoy the freshest taste, the leaves should be used with­in 2 weeks of open­ing the pack­age and 4 months of pur­chase.

Japanese green tea dif­fers from Chinese green tea as the leaves are first steamed (rather than roas­ted) for between 15 – 20 seconds to pre­vent oxid­iz­a­tion and then rolled, shaped, and dried to cre­ate the cus­tom­ary thin cyl­indric­al shape of the tea. This meth­od of steam­ing res­ults in Japanese green tea hav­ing a more veget­al or grassy fla­vour.

While many teas are served hot and con­sumed to quench thirst, gyok­uro is infused at 50 – 60°C and meant to be savoured and not rushed. It uses twice the amount of leaf (1 g/​30 ml) used for sen­cha. The first infu­sion is steeped at a com­fort­able 50 – 60°C for 90 seconds until the tea leaves begin to unfurl with great care taken not to agit­ate the tea leaves. This first infu­sion awakens the leaves, so sub­sequent infu­sions (up to 4 – 5) are for 60 seconds in water ~5°C warm­er than each pre­vi­ous.

20160228-DSC04993-c

The name gyok­uro trans­lates as ‘jade dew’ in Japanese and refers to the pale green col­our of the infu­sion. Being rich in thean­ine, the gyok­uro is high in umami fla­vours with a full-bod­ied mel­low sweet­ness and slightly vis­cous nature. It’s a deli­ciously brothy fla­vour akin to dashi that yields to a slightly astrin­gent sweet fin­ish (like unripe stone­fruit).

This umami is strongest in the first infu­sion (and increases with the qual­ity of the gyok­uro). With the leaves awakened, the second infu­sion yields a more astrin­gent fla­vour and vis­cous con­sist­ency, which clears gradu­ally to a green­er fla­vour and clear­er con­sist­ency by the third and fourth infu­sions.

Of the four infu­sions, the first and the third are my favour­ite — the first is packed with unami fla­vour, which is lost by the fourth but lingers in the third without the astrin­gency and leafi­ness of the second.

This bag of Kami Gyokuro by Ocha no Kanbayashi con­tained 100 g. The ori­gin­ated in Japan and was pur­chased in Uji, Kyoto, Japan in 2015.