I received this tea from a Japanese friend of mine after he had been to Kyoto. ( I live just outside Tokyo at the moment.) Being all new to gykuro teas I decided to gather various information about the tea before even opening it.
Other than just searching for information in books and on the internet, I also visited a Japanese tea house in Ginza called Ichiri (いち利) and had their gyokuro. Being the first time drinking gyokuro, I must say that the taste was both wonderful and sweet, although I was, and still am, not quite used to drink lukewarm tea.
As I enjoyed it, I had a chat with the employee about gyokuro and how to prepare it. The recommendation was 60 degrees Celsius for 2-3 minutes depending on the quality of the gyokuro. After staying there for quite a while, I went home to try this method with my tea.
I was quite disappointed when I tried it at home and found the taste much more bitter and less sweet that what I was served at the shop. Of course, when you pay 1000 yen for about three small “Japanese sized” cups of tea there is bound to be a certain quality difference between the leaves, so I tried testing different amounts of tea leaves and water, but I never really got the wanted outcome.
When I looked at the label again, however, I realized that it said “nettou” (熱湯) or “full boiled”. Looking this up it said that while usual gyokuro is covered from the sun for about 20 days, the netto gyokuro is only covered for about 7 days. This is to make the leaves more easy to prepare as a lot of Japanese people seems to find making gyokuro a hassle as it takes some time and dedication to do so. By covering it for only seven days one may use the same preparation methods as one use for sencha. About 80 degrees Celsius for about one minute. While not at the same level as “proper” gyokuro, one are supposed to still get the sweet and delicious result.
And it was certainly so! By using this method I got a much better result. The tea had a much more sweet and creamy taste than before. Being less lukewarm as well, I think this a tea I will enjoy a lot more from now on.