What are the benefits of Gyokuro?
Gyokuro is one of the most sought after leaf teas in Japan, and in this article you’re going to see why that is. We’re going to go through 5 benefits of Gyokuro tea, and why you may want to start drinking it.
The first reason why Gyokuro is so well liked is that it is very high in caffeine. Gyokuro contains somewhere in between 120-140 milligrams of caffeine per cup, which is even more caffeine than a small cup of coffee. The reason Gyokuro is so high in caffeine is because of its long shading process. The tea plant produces caffeine as a defense mechanism to ward off insects, and when the tea plant is shaded it actually produces more. This is because the tea plant is put under stress and it is particularly vulnerable when it is cut off from the sunlight. Gyokuro is also only made from the youngest leaves of the tea plant, which are higher in caffeine. These young leaves are more tender, so they need even more protection against the insects. These factors all give Gyokuro the highest caffeine content in the world of tea.
You may notice that 120-140mg is a pretty broad range, and this is because certain varieties of tea plants produce more caffeine. A Gyokuro made from the Yabukita cultivar like the cha musume may only have 120 milligrams of caffeine, while a Saemidori gyokuro like the cha Meijin will have 140mg of caffeine.
In addition to being high in caffeine, Gyokuro is also high in theanine as well. This is the second reason why this tea has become so popular. Not only do shaded teas produce more caffeine, they also produce more theanine as well. L-theanine is an amino acid in green tea that gives it this sweet and savory flavor. It also is responsible for that calm, relaxed feeling you get when you drink a cup of tea. L-theanine helps to slow the absorption of caffeine, and therefore it is able to buffer some of it’s more negative side effects. Instead of getting a quick jolt of energy and then a crash shortly after, you’ll notice a more sustained energy throughout the day. This is why a lot of people use green tea for long periods of work, study and meditation.
The long lasting calm alert feeling that theanine gives you is the second reason to drink Gyokuro, but the theanine also gives you a third reason to drink the tea as well. A tea with a high theanine content will have this beautiful sweet and savory flavor. Japanese green teas have become famous for this, as they really push the limits on these rich savory flavors. As we mentioned before, the high theanine content is developed during the shading process. Normally, when a tea plant is exposed to sunlight, it converts the sweet theanine into more bitter catechins, to help give the leaves some UV protection. The more catechins a tea produces, the more it begins to take on this drier or more astringent flavor. Because of this, the longer a tea plant has been shaded, the sweeter and less bitter it becomes. This concept is taken to the extreme when it comes to Gyokuro tea, which is shaded for a full 3 weeks or more before the harvest. It’s common for a regular sencha tea to be shaded for about a week before the harvest, to just give it a little extra sweetness, but no other leaf tea is shaded for as long as Gyokuro. Matcha tea is also shaded for 3 weeks prior to the harvest, but it is ground into a powder, making the flavor much different.
A strong cup of Gyokuro can be described as almost having this marine flavor profile of seaweed. This is a taste that takes a lot of getting used to, but once you acquire the flavor for it, it can be quite enjoyable. This flavor makes gyokuro very sought after in the world of tea, with some paying up to a few dollars per gram of these carefully crafted leaves.
In addition to the taste being very savory and sweet, it’s also very strong as well. The fourth reason to drink Gyokuro is for this incredibly strong flavor that is unique in the world of tea. If you’re used to drinking these lighter, more watered down green teas, you are in for a real surprise when you drink your first cup of Gyokuro. This tea is very heavy on the palate, with a dense liquor and strong flavor profile. This strong flavor is pushed even further by some tea masters, when they brew the tea with even less water. You may see a premium Gyokuro be prepared with 5 grams of leaves and as little as 50 milligrams of water. The tea is then served in these tiny glasses for each guest. When the Gyokuro is served like this, it becomes an entirely different drinking experience altogether. It now becomes not only about the taste, but about the texture as well. As you drink the tea drop by drop out of the small Gyokuro glass, you are meant to appreciate the feeling as it glides over your tongue. One way to prepare this tea with very little water is in a special type of teapot called a shibooridashi. This flat teapot is perfect for Gyokuro, giving the extra large leaves a space to open up and release their flavor, while also allowing the tea master to use less water and make a more concentrated infusion. If you haven’t yet tried preparing Gyokuro with this low water method, its definitely something you should try at least once.
The fifth and final reason to drink Gyokuro is that the tea works great as a cold brew. Cold brewing is something we like to do when we want to enjoy green teas on warmer days. By preparing the tea with cooler water, you actually extract less of the catechins, while still extracting the sweet and savory theanine. As a result, cold brewed teas tend to be smoother and sweeter although they are slightly less strong in their taste. We have found that Gyokuro tea works quite well when prepared cold, because it produces a nice sweet and refreshing cold brew, without tasting too watered down. We also like the Gyokuro Karigane as a cold brew, which is made by using both the stems and leaves of the plant used to make Gyokuro. This tea takes on some cool cucumber and melon notes, that are just what people are looking for in an iced tea.
I hope you have all enjoyed this article all about Gyokuro tea. Hopefully this has given you at least one reason to start drinking this incredible green tea at home. If you have any questions about where to get started or you need recommendations on which Gyokuro to try, please feel free to leave us a message in the comments below. Until then, we’ll see you next time.