Gyokuro Asahi is regarded as the highest grade of green tea produced in Japan. Its name roughly translates to “Morning Sun Jade Dew” and its robust flavor evokes a bright summer morning in a green field.
In terms of growth and harvest, Gyokuro is very similar to Matcha (Japan’s famous powdered green tea). Matcha is Japan’s oldest form of tea. Its origin dates back centuries to early Buddhist monasteries.
Like Matcha, Gyokuro is a form of shade-grown green tea. Several weeks before it is harvested, straw mats, thatched roofs or other protective coverings are placed above the tea bushes to mute the springtime sunlight from above. Having become accustomed to abundant sunlight, the plants dramatically increase their levels of chlorophyll (the substance that gives them their green color and collects energy from sunlight) to try to keep their growth rate steady. This natural chemical shift results in a higher level of caffeine, antioxidants, amino acids and other nutrients in the tealeaves.
At the time of harvest, shade-grown leaves could be used for either Gyokuro or further processed into Matcha. Matcha is steamed into a fragile form of leaf called “Tencha,” then its stems and veins are removed and the remainder of the leaf is slowly ground into powder with a stone mill. Gyokuro’s processing is simpler, but either way the leaves are finished, the end result is a nuanced, verdant tea that’s packed with flavor, low in bitterness and (according to many studies) a source of wealth of nutrients.
Our Gyokuro Asahi is grown, harvested and processed in the province of Uji near the epicenter of Japanese tea culture, Kyoto. The beautiful historic tea gardens of this region are the birthplace of Gyokuro. Although Gyokuro was first harvested in Uji almost 200 years ago, the tea gardens of Uji are still known for their incredible teas and their dedication to quality. Our Gyokuro Asahi is no exception to this.
After Gyokuro’s shade-grown leaves are harvested, they are rolled into their characteristic needle-like shape. Once shaped, they are steamed to prevent oxidation and retain their fresh, green flavor. After steaming, the leaves are sorted into various grades by size and shape. Gyokuro Asahi is the highest grade of tea from Japan… but the thing that really sets it apart is its singular flavor profile.
Dry, Gyokuro Asahi is comprised of long, deep green, needle-like leaves with sweet aromas of buttered corn, toasted hazelnuts and steamed greens. Brewed, the leaves offer more oceanic, bittersweet, vegetal aromas. The intense yellow-green infusion has a mellow, bittersweet scent with hints of buttery steamed corn, nuts and sea breezes. Its taste is wonderfully distinctive – a dominant flavor of hazelnuts is bolstered by bold flavors of sweet butter, seawater and unsweetened cocoa powder. The combination is fantastically complex and robust, so we recommend drinking Gyokuro Asahi on its own or with foods that are strong enough to stand up to its full flavors. Prime candidates for pairing with Gyokuro Asahi include grilled seafood, sushi with wasabi, nutella crepes or Italian tortas with ingredients like apples, Marsala wine, raisins and pine nuts.
To brew Gyokuro Asahi, heat water to a steam (about 140º F or 60º C) and use it to preheat your teapot or other brewing vessel. Discard the water in the brewing vessel, add two level teaspoons for each cup of tea you’d like to prepare, and cover the leaves with more steaming water. Brew for one minute to 90 seconds at most. For optimal flavor, the second infusion should be even shorter than the first.
Unlike most Japanese green teas, Gyokuro is intentionally aged for a richer, deeper flavor. It can be stored in a cool, dark area for months or even years to enhance its decadently brothy, vegetal tones.