Gyokuro Brewing Guide by Tea Experts

Gyokuro brewing is a delicate process that can be easy to get wrong. When brewing these special tea leaves, it’s important to use the right ratio of leaves to water and the right temperature. It’s also important not to agitate the leaves as you pour the water in. In this article, we’re going to be covering what gyokuro is, how it’s made and how you can prepare it at home.

 

Gyokuro brewing instructions

In this gyokuro tea brewing guide, we are going to take you through the process of gyokuro brewing step by step. Let’s get started!

  1. Measure out 5 grams of leaves and place them in the bottom of your kyusu or shiboridashi teapot.
  2. Next, you can pour in 150ml of water at a temperature of 140 degrees fahrenheit.
  3. As you pour, makes sure not to pour directly on top of the leaves, as this will agitate them and release slightly more bitterness
  4. Put the lid of the teapot on to keep the tea warm, and let it sit undisturbed for 2 minutes
  5. After the gyokuro brewing is complete, it’s time to pour out your tea. Make sure to do this very gently so that you don’t agitate the leaves, but once the pouring stops, you can shake out the last few drops.

Why gyokuro brewing requires cooler water

The reason gyokuro brewing requires such cooler water is that you really want to extract the sweet and savory flavors of the green tea, without extracting any bitterness. The bitter catechins of the tea are extracted at a higher temperature, so as long as you keep your gyokuro tea brewing on the cooler side, you will be able to enjoy a smooth and savory cup of tea!

Cold brew gyokuro

When you cold brew gyokuro, you not only get a cold refreshing drink, you also get plenty of the gyokuro tea benefits and a smoother and sweeter taste. 

 

Gyokuro tea brewing with less water

One gyokuro brewing method you may be familiar with is using more leaves and less water. This is the method you will see at high end tea shops in Japan, and it really can produce a special cup of gyokuro tea.

Although gyokuro can be a tea you drink everyday, it is also meant to be a tea for special occasions. For these occasions, you often will drink gyokuro out of these very small cups. When you drink super concentrated tea in a small quantity like this, you are not only meant to savor the taste, but also the texture as it glides over the top of your tongue, drop by drop.

This gyokuro brewing method uses 5 grams of leaves and only 50ml of water. This creates a dense, flavorful infusion that has almost a gel-like or oily texture. This is unlike any tea experience you’ve had and it really makes for a special moment.

 

Best Teapot for Gyokuro brewing: Shiboridashi

japanese tea accessory shiboridashi

If you would like to try the special gyokuro brewing method, the best way to do it is using a shiboridashi. This teapot has a wide, flat base which allows the tea leaves to expand without being cramped on top of one another.

The name translates to squeeze out, which is a good way to describe this method of gyokuro tea brewing, as you are really maximizing the flavor into a smaller space. You can find these shiboridashi teapots on our website.

These teapots are handmade in tokoname, the most famous region for clay pottery. This region also produces the best quality clay for teapots, with low porosity and heat conductivity. 

Top 3 alternative teaware vs Shiboridashi

There are many teapots that are similar to the shiboridashi. Our team of experts made a top 3 of the most lookalike teaware vs the shiboridashi. We even wrote articles in which we're covering all differences and similarities of these substitutes:

    1. Shiboridashi vs Kyusu
    2. Shiboridashi vs Hohin
    3. Shiboridashi vs Gaiwan

 

What is Gyokuro?

Gyokuro is considered to be the most sought after leaf tea in Japan. The leaves are carefully grown, selected and processed to produce this super flavorful infusion. The flavor of gyokuro is described as being sweet and savory. This strong savory flavor is quite unique in the world of tea, and something you will usually only experience in a food like a bowl of miso soup.

The savory flavor comes from the strong presence of amino acids in the leaf. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, so it makes sense that they can create a flavor that is normally associated with protein-rich foods.

Different varieties or cultivars of gyokuro plants have different levels of amino acids, which gives them completely different flavors. The gyokuro cha meijin, which comes from the saemidori cultivar has a light and warm sweetness, with notes of brown sugar and caramel. The gyokuro cha musume on the other hand comes from the yabukita cultivar, and it has a much more direct savory flavor. 

 

History of Gyokuro

The history of gyokuro can be traced back to this spot in Ogura, a small town nearby Uji. Uji has been the major hub of premium tea cultivation in Japan since the 1400s and some would argue that it still is today. The most common type of tea produced in Japan during the 1500s and 1600s was matcha, a type of powdered tea that was popularized through its use in the tea ceremony. This tea was quite expensive, and mostly consumed by the upper classes. If you want to learn why Gyokuro is an expensive tea, we invite you to read the article 👉 Why is the Gyokuro Tea Price so High?

Tea producers began experimenting with teas that could be prepared more simply, with only the most basic of utensils. A tea farmer named Nagatani Soen found that by steaming, rolling and drying the tea leaves, you could lock in the flavor so it can be released all at once into a beautiful, flavorful infusion.

Soon, another tea producer named Yamamoto Kahei came along with his contribution to the tea industry. After traveling around Japan, he found farmers that would cover their tea plants to protect them from the cold. They noticed that this produced a smoother and sweeter tasting tea. He applied this concept to his own tea, and found that the long shaded tea leaves produced a green residue during the production. He nicknamed the tea “gyokuro” or jade dew. In the gyokuro brewing, the tea became even more extraordinary, with this explosion of powerful sweet and savory flavors. 

 

How is Gyokuro Made

What makes gyokuro so special is its long and careful production process. This involves 3 specific phases of growing, harvesting and processing. Gyokuro tea farmers like Mr. Sakamoto work tirelessly to produce incredible teas like the gyokuro sasa hime and gyokuro cha meijin, and it all starts with how the tea is grown.

Growing

Gyokuro is grown in a similar way to any other Japanese green tea, except for one factor and that is the shading. When the tea plant is exposed to sunlight, it begins to convert sweet and savory theanine into more bitter catechins as a protection against the UV light. This might be a good protection for the leaf, but catechins produce a bitter flavor in the final tea.

 If the farmer wants to produce a tea that’s as sweet as gyokuro, they will have to cover the plant with netting for at least 3 weeks before the harvest. This shading minimizes the content of catechins in the tea, and allows it to maintain more of its sweet and savory flavor.

Harvesting

After three weeks or more of shading, the tea plant is ready to be harvested. The first harvest usually occurs either in either April or May. The reason that premium Japanese green teas have to come from the first harvest is that these leaves contain the highest concentration of nutrients.

The tea plant is not harvested during the winter, so it has many months to “rest” and build up nutrients from the soil. These nutrients are then released all at once into the fresh sprouts in the springtime. Only the top 3 leaves are selected to make gyokuro. These are the smoothest and sweetest in flavor and they have more caffeine as well.

Processing

The processing of gyokuro is similar to most other Japanese green teas. The leaves are gathered up after they are harvested and then steamed, rolled and dried.

What makes gyokuro tea unique, and a factor that influences gyokuro tea brewing is the shape of the leaves. If we compare gyokuro vs sencha, the sencha leaves tend to be slightly flatter. Gyokuro leaves are tightly rolled into these needle shapes. This requires an extra stage of the production process where the leaves are rolled with a series of brushes to give them their distinct shape.

The reason this affects the gyokuro tea brewing is that these tightly rolled leaves need a full 2 minutes to open up and release their flavor into the water. 

 

Final Thoughts on Gyokuro brewing

I hope you have all enjoyed this guide on gyokuro brewing! When it comes to brewing a cup of gyokuro tea, make sure you keep the brewing temperature low, the steeping time long and if you would like to really level up your tea experience, you can use a higher leaf to water ratio.

If you are interested in experimenting with your own gyokuro tea brewing, you can find some great gyokuro tea on our website.

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