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How to Brew Gyokuro Tea: A Delicate Indulgence

How to Brew Gyokuro Tea: A Delicate Indulgence

Gyokuro, is a wonderful entry into the world of Japanese green tea. Whether you have tasted it while touring Japan or sampled it at a neighborhood tearoom, once have experienced gyokuro, you will never look at green tea the same way again. Fortunately, it is quite easy to obtain gyokuro online, however if you want to relive your first experience—your first sip—you must also study the art of preparing this somewhat finicky tea.

Why Is Gyokuro Tea Challenging to Brew?

Why Is Gyokuro Tea Challenging to Brew?

The greater the challenge, the greater the reward! In order to enjoy gyokuro tea to its fullest potential, there are three important elements.

  1. High-Quality Tea:
    Tea quality is the keystone of gyokuro. If the quality is low or moderate, it is unlikely that you will be able to brew a good cup.
  2. Correct-Sized Tea Set:
    Having the correct-sized teapot and teacups can reduce difficulties when preparing and serving gyokuro tea.
  3. Methodical Preparation:
    Understanding and practicing the almost ritual-like steps given below will bring out the tea’s sublime character profile.

High-Quality Gyokuro Tea

There are many gyokuro tea brands available online, however, often they are so inferior in quality that whether or not you have the proper teaware or experience, you cannot obtain a satisfactory brewing.

At Sazen Tea, we pride ourselves on providing only the highest quality gyokuro tea produced by trusted tea farms in Japan. If you are new to gyokuro and need assistance with choosing your first purchase, we suggest trying our Uji Premium Gyokuro, which will offer a truly revelatory experience in the world of green tea.

Correct-Sized Gyokuro Tea Set

Though there is no hard rule with which teapot and teacups to use when preparing gyokuro tea, because it has a unique brewing method compared with other green teas, owning the correct teaware can improve the overall experience.

What makes a Gyokuro Tea Set Unique?

What makes a Gyokuro Tea Set Unique?

A hohin is a unique teapot that is meant specifically for brewing gyokuro. It does not have a handle, so you must hold the teapot in your hand. A good rule of thumb is that if the water temperature is cool enough to allow you to hold the hohin comfortably in your hand, then it’s the optimal temperature for gyokuro. Because of this, the hohin serves as both a teapot and thermometer.

While a yuzamashi looks similar to a Japanese teapot without a lid, it plays a different role when brewing gyokuro tea. Water temperature is crucial in preparation of this tea variety, and a yuzamashi can help regulate the temperature for optimal flavor, color and aroma.

Gyokuro teacups
To accommodate the serving size of gyokuro, gyokuro teacups are much smaller in size than other teacups. These perfect-sized teacups come in handy to gauge how much hot water is needed for the first brewing process. They can become useful tools when lowering the temperature of hot water as well.

Gyokuro Tea: 1st Brewing

STEP 1 Prepare your tools and tea leaves.

Prepare your tools and tea leaves. The first step in brewing gyokuro tea is to make sure that your tools and ingredients are ready for use.

It’s also important to consider the following measurements as changing any of them will affect the tea’s flavor, aroma, and color.

There are varying ways to brew gyokuro tea. At Sazen Tea we prefer the following formula for gyokuro tea available at our online marketplace. Our gyokuro brewing formula retains the wonderful flavor and aroma of the standard formula while slightly reducing the tea’s potency for a more enjoyable experience.

Sazen Tea: Gyokuro Brewing Formula

Sazen Tea: Gyokuro Brewing Formula

STEP 2 Cool the heated water to about 40–50°C (104–122°F).

Cool the heated water to about 40–50°C (104–122°F). The temperature of the water is crucial when brewing the perfect cup of gyokuro tea, because water at this temperature helps the amino acids (a chemical component connected to umami) be extracted from the leaf. At the same time, this low temperature can help prevent catechin (a component of the tea leaf that causes bitterness) from being extracted.

While there are many methods developed for cooling the water to a desired temperature, the following two methods are well-established within Japan’s traditional tea drinking culture.

Cooling Water with a Yuzamashi

  1. Pour 100 cc of the just-boiled water into the yuzamashi.
  2. Evenly divide 100 cc of the water into each cup that you are preparing; typically one cup can hold between 20–40cc.
  3. Pour out any remaining water from the teapot; you will not need it.
  4. Pour the water from each of the teacups back into the yuzamashi and wait until the temperature drops to around 40°C.

Cooling Water without a Yuzamasi

  1. Place 2–3 empty teacups in front of you.
  2. Pour hot water into one teacup. Then, immediately pour the hot water into the next cup. Repeat until the water cools to the desired temperature.
  3. Pour out the remaining water in the teapot; you will not need it.

STEP 3 Add the gyokuro tea leaves into the teapot.

Make sure to add enough tea leaves; about 6 grams.

STEP 4 Gently pour the heated water over the tea leaves.

STEP 5 Wait 2 minutes for the leaves to steep.

It is best not to disturb the teapot as any unnecessary movement to the tea leaves can affect the taste and flavor.

STEP 6 Evenly pour the tea into each cup and serve.

Evenly pour the tea into each cup and serve. If you are serving multiple guests, make sure not to fill one teacup at a time, but rather, line all teacups in a row and fill each little by little, going back and forth. This ensures that each cup of gyokuro tea tastes the same.

Also, it’s important to serve all the tea in a teapot until the last drop. This way, you can enjoy a second and third brewing using the same leaves.

You may notice that after you have poured the gyokuro into the teacups that there is less liquid than was first poured into the cups when cooling the just-boiled water. This is because during the steeping process, the tea leaves soak up about 15 percent of the water in the teapot. For the second and third brewing you will likely notice this less as the tea leaves are already hydrated.

Enjoying Gyokuro Tea Beyond the First Brewing

Like sencha, gyokuro can be enjoyed multiple times using the same leaves.
For the second and third servings, use the following formulas:

Gyokuro Tea: 2nd Brewing

Sazen Tea: Gyokuro Brewing Formula

Gyokuro Tea: 3rd Brewing

Sazen Tea: Gyokuro Brewing Formula

The third serving, in particular, will pleasantly surprise you with differing flavors and aromas from the first serving with more pronounced bitterness and seaweed-like aroma.

Savoring Gyokuro Tea

Gyokuro is not a tea to quench your thirst but a tea that should be savored. By taking these diligent steps in brewing the perfect cup of tea, combined with a bit of patience, you can savor the rich umami flavor and aroma that only can be found with high-quality gyokuro tea.

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