Monday, 3 August 2015

Gyokuro, Kyoto

Fortune Cookie

案ずるより産むが易し。 (Anzuru yori umu ga yasashi)  

Giving birth to a baby is easier than worrying about it. Meaning: Fear is greater than the danger. 

In the traditional Japanese hotel (the ryokan) every room has a caddy of green tea and a tea set. This is a Karigane with the leaf stems still in evidence. Karigane is made from the stems of Gyokuro tea. If it isn't stems from Gyokuro the Japanese won't call it Karigane.

The tea was pretty tasty taken as it was in the traditional Japanese surroundings, a ryokan (a very formal one) in the centre of Kyoto.

The next day I would visit some temples on the edge of the city but tonight I decided to relax. Ice cream is not really my thing but green tea ice cream ...

Central Gion, Kyoto

Tea shop matcha ice cream! This was a dream to eat and the green tea shone through. I don't yet make ice cream but the time approaches. 

I forced myself away to another street where geishas still plied their trade. One sin to another?

Bamboo groves, Arashiyama. 

If you like travel on Singing Bird visit her sister site GuerillaZ at 

Gyokuro Cha

Gyokuro tea was invented in the year 1835. In the old days, Gyokuro tea gardens were covered by bundles of rice straw. Now the shade is provided by black plastic webbing. 

Asahina (Shizuoka), Uji (Kyoto) and Yame (Fukuoka) are the three major Gyokuro manufacturing areas in Japan.

Gyokuro is mainly produced from the Yabukita cultivar. Gyokuro leaves are a deep green in colour. The shading processes that precede plucking lead to a deeper than usual green colour.

The tea liquid is correspondingly green rather than the yellowy coour of many green teas.

An extraordinary bright green, and the deep tasting warm sip is sweet seaweed in nature.

Gyokuro Modern Brewing Method

Water volume and quantity of tea leaf

You need to measure 4g of tea leaf for 200ml of water. On the contrary to the traditional brewing method, use more volume of water. A teapot that size is in about 150-220 ml is right nice for one person.

The leaf is very shrunken from the steaming process and presents only as fragments. The whole leaf or half-leaf is not present here. Japanese tea pots have a wire mesh to filter of the fine pieces of tea.


Cool boiling water down to 70-80 degrees C. Some people say 60 degrees but try to stick to the same temperature over the series of brewings until you feel all taste has gone. At the last increase brewing temperature so as to bring out the remaining taste and flavor.

Brewing time

Gyokuro leaf is much more tender than the sencha leaf. Brewing time should be slightly shorter than how we brew sencha. For sencha, the first brewing is for 1 minute. For Gyokuro, 30 seconds to 40 seconds is long enough. The second brewing increase by 10-20 seconds. 2nd and third brewings also the same. From the forth brewing, increase to 10 seconds and for the each subsequent brewing add additional 10 seconds.

For 100 grams/3 oz this gyokuro from Aikoku Seicha cost 3240 Yen, around $26.

See Japanese style teaware at:

After extensive walking around the extremely pretty Arashiyama district north of Kyoto ...

.... I returned on the suburban train to my ryokan to brew the Uji gyokuro I bought for myself earlier in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

This gyokuro brewed at lower temperatures around 70 C (I find the recommended temperature  of 60C too low for my liking) yielded a thick, almost soup-like bright green tea as if from fresh leaves. 
The flavour is indeed very deep and rich with endless leaf particles swirling around in the tea. The whole mouth is coated with a rich flavour. After the second steeping, which is less impactful than the first, I found the flavour fades away quite quickly. A little disappointing compared with some other teas I enjoy where the leaves provide a good cup 6 or 7 brews later. Still it's a very good tea with that distinct richness of good quality Japanese tea.

I would buy this tea again.

Living in Vietnam with its high temperatures I think I am going to ice a litre and see how it fares. 

Gyokuro from Uji a delicious, rich tea at a good price $20 for 100g from Akiko Seiku, Tokyo.

Kyushu teapot 300 ml from Matsumoto City $30.

Caddy from Shinjuku $16

I must get some hon gyokuro sometime soon and compare with ordinary gyokuro which I think this is. Hon means authentic and such tea is shaded traditionally using straw and is therefore more expensive. But that's for another day.  

Happy tea drinking!

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