Is gyokuro the best green tea? After traveling around Japan and learning about gyokuro tea for the past few years, we now believe that a case can be made for gyokuro being the best green tea. In this article, we are going to take a look at what gyokuro is, how it’s made and why it just might be the best green tea. Let’s get started!
What to know before we decide is gyokuro the best green tea
Before we decide is gyokuro the best green tea, we need to talk about what gyokuro is, how its made and why people like it so much. This will really help you understand why the tea has such a strong reputation.
What is gyokuro tea?
Gyokuro tea is the most sought after leaf tea in Japan. It was once the tea of choice for the emperor himself, and that’s why you’ll often see it being marketed as “imperial green tea” or “imperial gyokuro”.
Before the widespread use of refrigeration, the quality of a tea was judged by how long it maintained its flavor. When the emperor was selecting tea for his private collection, he would often wait until a few months after the harvest, to evaluate the quality of a tea. Because gyokuro maintains, and even improves in flavor with age, it was always the emperor's favorite.
Today gyokuro is famous for a different reason - it’s flavor. Gyokuro has a powerful flavor that is incredibly unique in the world of tea. In fact, it is easier to compare the taste of gyokuro to a meal rather than a drink. It has this savory or brothy flavor you would typically find in something like a hearty bowl of miso soup. It has a slightly marine flavor like seaweed, but also a pleasant sweetness. All of these flavors seem like they wouldn’t go together, but in the case of gyokuro they work beautifully.
How is gyokuro made
To understand why people ask is gyokuro the best green tea, you have to take a look at how it is produced as well. Gyokuro goes through perhaps one of the most labor intensive production processes of any leaf tea.
Step 1 - Plant is shaded for 3 weeks before the harvest
To be considered a gyokuro, the gyokuro plant needs to be shaded for 3 weeks before the harvest. When the tea plant is exposed to sunlight, it begins to convert l-theanine into catechins. Catechins can be great when it comes to protecting the tea plant from sunlight, but they can produce a bitter flavor in the tea. If a farmer wants to produce a smoother and sweeter tea like gyokuro, he will cover the tea plants with netting before the harvest.
Step 2 - Only top 3 sprouts are harvested
When the 3 week shading period is over, the farmer will then harvest the tea leaves and select only the top 3 sprouts. These sprouts are the youngest part of the tea plant and they are the sweetest in flavor. After the leaves have been harvested, they need to be gathered up and steamed almost immediately. 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?
Step 3 - Steaming process
After the leaves are picked, they will begin to oxidize naturally and eventually turn into a black tea. To stop this oxidation process, the tea leaves need to be steamed in order to deactivate the enzymes. This allows the gyokuro to lock in its green color and its steamed vegetable flavors. Afterwards, the leaves are dried and rolled into their characteristic needle shapes.
Why is gyokuro so well liked
The reason gyokuro is so well liked is because of this sweet and savory or umami flavor. This umami flavor is very unique and it is perfected during the long, labor intensive production process. Because this tea is so hard to produce the right way, it tends to command a high price. Just looking at the gyokuro tea price alone will lead you to wonder is gyokuro the best green tea.
Is gyokuro the best green tea for health?
When it comes to the question of health, gyokuro has a lot to brag about. Teas made from the younger leaves of the tea plant like matcha, gyokuro and sencha, tend to be the highest in nutrients. Gyokuro caffeine level tend to be higher compared to other teas, which depending on your view can either be bad for health or exactly what you need to maintain an active lifestyle!
Is gyokuro the best green tea for energy?
The question of is gyokuro the best green tea for energy can be answered by looking at 2 compounds, caffeine and l-theanine. Caffeine is a compound we are all familiar with, but l-theanine is something we will need to discuss in further detail.
Gyokuro contains about as much caffeine as a strong cup of coffee, with between 120mg to 140mg. Clearly you can get a lot of energy by drinking a stiff cup of gyokuro in the morning, but you won’t feel the same as when you drink coffee. This is twice as much as sencha. If you want to learn more about the different between Gyokuro and Sencha, we suggest you to read the article 👉 Gyokuro vs Sencha: Differences & Comparisons.
When you drink coffee, you will notice a sudden, jittery jolt of energy followed by a crash later on in the day. This is because coffee does not contain l-theanine. L-theanine is an amino acid that exists in green tea, and it can slow the absorption of caffeine and regulate some of its negative side effects.
Instead of getting a quick jolt of energy, jitters, nervousness and a crash, you’ll notice a more sustained “calm-alert” energy throughout the day when you drink gyokuro. So when people ask, is gyokuro the best green tea for energy, we usually say yes!
Is gyokuro the best green tea for flavor
Of course this is more of a matter of opinion. If you are a fan of sweeter and more vegetal teas like sencha and kabusecha, you will most likely like the flavor of gyokuro. If you are more used to black teas or roasted teas, you may find the flavor of gyokuro to be a bit much at first.
Of course once you develop a taste for gyokuro, you really can’t get enough of it, and nothing else will be able to replace it. There is just something about that strong umami and thick mouthfeel that gyokuro drinkers can’t get enough of!
Final thoughts on is gyokuro the best green tea
While the question is gyokuro the best green tea is a matter of opinion, we believe that when you look at the gyokuro tea benefits, the production and the unique taste characteristics of this tea, you can certainly make a case for it.
Where to buy the tastiest gyokuro?
Now that you know that answer to the question is gyokuro the best green tea subjective, 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 the best gyokuro, you can try some great ones produced by the legendary farmer, Mr. Sakamoto himself. Mr. Sakamoto has been producing gyokuro without the use of pesticides or chemicals since 1985, and during that time he has developed his own blend of organic fertilizer that allows him to grow strong, healthy and flavorful tea plants without harming the natural ecosystem.
Gyokuro cha musume
A good gyokuro to start with is the gyokuro cha musume. This tea is the most popular gyokuro from Mr. Sakamoto and it’s made from the Yabukita cultivar, the most common tea cultivar in Japan. This tea has a direct savory flavor, a pleasant sweetness and some light floral notes. Try it out for yourself and you’ll see why people ask is gyokuro the best green tea?