I recently bought a Gyokuro sampler from Maiko Tea (until the end of March, they have a pretty good sale going on) because it was $20 off! It includes 5 of their highest quality samples, a few of which (I think) are Temomi (hand-rolled).
This one is the lowest end of the spectrum, but is by no means cheap or boring! I tried half the sample with regular brewing parameters (warm tea, 140, 150, 160, etc), and the other half with ice brewing (34, 100, 140, 160, 180, etc.), to get as good of an idea as I could about the tea. The unfortunate thing about sample sizes, especially for green teas and certain black/oolong teas, is that you don’t get to really experiment and figure out your ideal way to prepare it. I find it takes at least an ounce to figure that out, if not more.
Anyway, on to this tea.
The loose leaf smelled like what I’ve come to expect from gyokuro, but less strongly marine. The ice brewed wet leaf brought out more of a marine aroma, but that was covered up by a strong peppery-sweet smell that was unique and grabbed my attention.
What really impressed me about this gyokuro though, was the lack of strong marine/umami flavor AND the kind of sweetness it had. It was a soft, rounded sweetness that didn’t overpower you, but was fun to taste and also delicious! Don’t get me wrong, I very much enjoy the marine-like qualities of a typical gyokuro, but it is fun to find a tea that stands out from the crowd.
If I were to make a sweetness spectrum, I might write it like this:
honey / sugar / caramelized sugar / syrup / high fructose syrup / fake sweeteners
Now, I’ve had gyokuros that were so sweet, they were close to the fake sweeteners end of things. There was a quality about the sweetness that was extremely intense and took some getting used to. This tea, on the other hand, was much more like honey end of the spectrum. It had a smooth sweetness and really, it even tasted like honey. In one of those cups, I definitely detected some kind of oolong-like fruity flavor as well.
I really enjoyed this one, and since it is pretty affordable (I think about $11 for 50g), it would be one I would get again. If you like a stronger emphasis on sweet (rather than vegetal or umami) in Japanese greens, I would definitely go with this one.