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David’s Tea Time: Gyokuro Suimei

Gyokuro is a shade-grown steamed Japanese green tea which is considered to be among the best in Japan's teas. Gyokuro is grown under light-blocking shading nets for several weeks prior to harvest. This slows the growth of the leaves helps to produce higher levels of L-theanine, an amino acid that is known for its calming effect on the mind. L-theanine also contributes to the unique flavor of gyokuro, which has been described as sweet and umami.  The shading also causes the leaves to produce more chlorophyll, resulting in Gyokuro's vivid green color. Gyokuro is typically regarded as Japan's highest quality green tea, and its rich flavor and delicate aroma make it a favorite among tea aficionados.

  • Presentation: The dry leaves have this beautiful, almost oily, sheen. The leaves are a deep, dark green color that indicates they have received plenty of shade. Even though they are delicate, the leaves still retain their needle shape for the most part. There are some broken parts naturally, but the leaves are not as easy to break as the fragile leaves of Fukamushi (“Deep Steamed”) Sencha, which is produced in a way that results in leaf material that is easier to break.
    • Smell of the Dry Leaf: It is some combination of freshly juiced cane sugar with a hint of seaweed or sea air.
  • Taste: Here is where the money is. When brewing Gyokuro, generally, one is recommended to use lower temperature water compared to other Japanese green teas like Sencha or Houjicha especially. Gyokuro brewing and tasting can be quite a genteel experience. Really, tasting tea in general can be improved with a great attention to detail yet this is especially true for Gyokuro. This is not tea to brew with scalding hot water, necessarily. 
    • Brewing at around 140F for a whole 2 minutes results in a forest green colored brew. The brew itself smelled of distant salt water.
    • The cup was easy to hold on my hand yet was still pleasantly warm
    • What distinguishes Gyokuro from other teas is that it's shaded, which allows L-Theanine to remain in the leaves. This results in a pronounced umami flavor and texture that coats your tongue. The astringency is gentle compared to most teas.
  • Body Feel: This Japanese green tea relaxes and gently elevates your mood, making it perfect for contemplation. The caffeine is a bit stimulating but the L-Theanine helps to modulate that stimulation, resulting in a feeling of calm assurance that everything is going to be okay. This tea inspires me to appreciate the moment instead of being distracted by other things.