Why Organic Gyokuro is So Hard to Grow

Today we are going to be talking about the elusive organic Gyokuro. The Japanese tea market is only 7% organic, so finding any type of organic green tea in Japan can be a challenge, but Gyokuro proves to be especially difficult. What is it about Gyokuro that makes it so challenging to grow?

how gyokuro is grown

In order to be considered a gyokuro green tea, it has to be shaded for around 3 weeks prior to harvest. When the tea plant is cut off from sun, it forces it to produce more chlorophyll to compensate for the loss of sun energy. The tea plant also produces more theanine and caffeine as a defense mechanism. The caffeine on the outside of the leaf is bitter and even lethal to insects, so the tea plant uses it as a defense mechanism. Because the shading is such a stressful time for the tea plant, it needs to produce even more caffeine to ward off the insects.

After a week or so with very little sun, the tea plant begins to struggle. It is hard to support plant growth in such little sunlight. What most farmers do at this stage is pump plenty of chemicals and fertilizers onto the crop in order to compensate. This is not an option for many organic farmers, so it is hard to keep the plant alive using strictly organic methods.

sakamoto organic gyokuro

Luckily, the farmer Mr. Sakamoto has come up with an ingenious solution to this problem. He produces his own brand of fertilizer that actually strengthens the cellular density of the tea plant. This allows the plant to not only survive without sunlight, but also survive without soil. Sakamoto often takes trimmings of non-organic tea plants and compares them to his organic crop in a vase. After just one week, the non-organic tea plants begin to wilt and die, but his plants still look as strong and as healthy as ever.

Mr. Sakamoto also explains that these plants are denser in nutrients as well. By creating healthier soil, he is able to bring more nutrients to the tea plant and create a delicious and healthy organic beverage.

why is gyokuro so expensive

The end result is the highest quality green tea in Japan. Gyokuro is also called "the Emperor's tea" because it used to be reserved for the emperor due to its superior quality. Gyokuro has a strong sweetness and umami flavor. It also brews a dense, jade green liquor that is very high in caffeine and theanine. It is said that gyokuro has more caffeine than coffee if brewed correctly. Even though it has more caffeine than coffee, you might not feel it because the l-theanine in the green tea counteracts some of the negative side effects of caffeine like jitteriness. 

If you would like to browse some teas from Mr. Sakamoto, please click here