Tencha vs gyokuro is a comparison that is often made, but there are actually a few key differences between these teas.
Gyokuro is a tea you all might be familiar with if you follow our videos and blog articles, but tencha might be a new one for you.
These leaves are not typically drunk as a tea, but they are ground up into a powder to make matcha tea.
As it is not intended to be drunk on it's own, there are many differences between tencha vs gyokuro.
In this article, we're going to learn the difference between gyokuro and tencha and teach you how each tea is made and what it’s used for.
Let's get started! 👇🍃
The production of tencha vs gyokuro
Gyokuro, tencha and kabusecha are all made from shaded tea plants. Gyokuro plants and tencha plants need to be shaded for the longest time, 3 weeks or more before the harvest.
When the tea plant is exposed to sunlight, it begins to convert theanine into catechins, in order to protect itself against the UV light. This may be good for the tea plant, but the catechins are what give tea its bitter flavor.
If a farmer wants to produce a smoother and sweeter tea like Kabuse sencha, gyokuro or matcha, he will cover the tea plant. This reduces the amount of catechins and maximizes the sweet and savory theanine. This is a similarity between tencha vs gyokuro.
Made using the youngest top 3 sprouts on the tea plant
Another similarity between tencha vs gyokuro is that they are made using the youngest 3 sprouts on the tea plant. These sprouts are the sweetest and most flavorful, which is why they are used for premium Japanese green teas like gyokuro tencha and kabusecha.
Leaves need to be unoxidized
After the leaves are harvested, they are quickly moved to the processing facility to be turned into the various tea types. As soon as the leaves are picked, they will begin to oxidize naturally and eventually the tea will turn into a black tea.
In order to be considered a green tea, the leaves need to be unoxidized. To deactivate the enzymes that cause oxidation, you need to apply heat to the leaves. For Japanese green teas, the leaves are taken through a steam bath, which locks in the green colors and flavors of the tea leaves. This process will be carried out for both tencha and gyokuro, but what happens next leads to the differences in tencha vs gyokuro.
The difference between tencha vs gyokuro
Tencha has its stems removed after it is harvested
Unlike gyokuro, tencha actually has its stems removed after it is harvested. This is an important step in order to prepare it for grinding.
The stems will not grind as easily and they don’t have quite as sweet of a flavor compared to the leaves. Another thing you will notice when you look at the stems within the leaf, they are much yellower than the leaf itself. This means that the final color of the matcha won't be as green if the stems are not removed.
To remove the stems requires 2 different steps
- First, the stems need to be separated and then they need to be sorted. While these processes can vary, it is common to use a machine that rubs the leaves over a flat surface in order to separate them from the leaf.
- One the leaves and stems have been separated, the leaves are put into a series of tall nets and air is blown underneath them. The leaves are much lighter and tend to float higher so they will reach the top of the net and make it into the next stage. The heavier stems will be stuck at the bottom and not able to move on to the next stage. The stems will not be wasted, they can be used to make stem teas or included in lower quality teas like teabags.
Tencha vs Gyokuro Leaves
If you compare tencha leaves vs gyokuro leaves, you will notice the difference between the two right away.
Because tencha goes through the additional stem removal process, the leaves are all broken up into these small flat pieces.
Gyokuro on the other hand goes through 2 separate rolling phases, giving the tea its trademark pine needle shape.
These tightly rolled needles lock in the flavor until the tea is infused into water. Because tencha is just going to be ground into matcha, it doesn’t need to go through a rolling phase.
This is why you will notice a huge difference between the leaves of tencha vs gyokuro.
Did you know that some people are even eating gyokuro leaves? To learn more about it, read our article 👉 Why people are Eating Gyokuro Leaves?
Final thoughts on tencha vs gyokuro
When it comes to tencha vs gyokuro, it seems that there are more similarities than there are differences. Both teas are shaded for 3 weeks before the harvest, they are made from the top 3 leaves of the tea plant and they are steamed after harvest.
The only difference between tencha vs gyokuro is that tencha leaves need to have their stems removed so that they can be ground into matcha.
If you're interested to learn more about the difference of gyokuro vs matcha, we recommend you the article 👉 Tea Comparison between Gyokuro vs Matcha.
Where to try these teas
The best way to enjoy tencha, is to simply enjoy matcha. This is the finished product and if it is mixed into water properly, it can create a delicious and unique drinking experience.
A good ceremonial matcha for beginners is the Noike Matcha. This is a super smooth Okumidori matcha and it’s made by the talented farmer Mr. Noike just outside of Kyoto.
A final difference between tencha vs gyokuro is that gyokuro is meant to be consumed as is, and we're going to show you how to do just that in the next section!
Where to Buy Gyokuro
Now that you know all the differences between Tencha vs Gyokuro, you are ready to prepare your own!
Where to buy gyokuro green tea is a question we often get asked, and the answer is a bit complicated.
We wrote an entire article in which we will teach you everything you need to know before you buy gyokuro, how to buy gyokuro green tea and where to buy gyokuro. If you want to read it, here is the link for the article 👉 Where to buy gyokuro green tea.
Nio Teas & Mr Sakamoto
If you are interested in trying either gyokuro tea, you can try the excellent gyokuro from Mr. Sakamoto in Shibushi. Mr. Sakamoto has been growing gyokuro without the use of pesticides or chemicals since 1985, and during that time he has developed his own blend of organic fertilizer.
With this fertilizer, he is able to grow strong, healthy and flavor plants without harming the natural ecosystem.
A good gyokuro to start with is the Cha Musume, a sweet, savory and floral gyokuro from the Yabukita cultivar.