Gyokuro Inoka Hill

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  • “I tried this when I was out in San Francisco during the incredible tea tasting that Jesse led Jack and I through. This was a few weeks ago, so keep in mind that I am writing this from the dregs of...” Read full tasting note

From Samovar

Origin: Kyoto Prefecture, Kyotonabe near Uji
Varietal: Goko Tea Bush
Batch Size: Approx. 9 kgs

Flavor Profile: Umami deliciousness! Buttery and grassy -so much flavor in just a few drops. This tea is very rich with heavy flavor and mouth-feel. We have never tasted a Gyukoro with such strong umami and sweet flavors. This tea has very substantial notes of sweet Nori seaweed, sticky rice, and evergreen. A truly rare infusion.

Tea Story: Gyukoro Inoka Hill 1st Place Winner.
For the Dew Drop lover, this tea recently ranked #1 in the all-Japan Gyokuro competition. Only 9kg in total were made: 5 stayed at the farm, and we have the entire remaining batch. Ethereal & phenomenal. Truly, the ultimate tea experience.

From the oldest Gyokuro cultivation area in Japan, in the town of Uji in Kyoto Prefecture, comes this very special tea. Known as (Precious) Jade Dew Drop, this tea has a pale green, almost clear infusion color with a very thick flavor and mouth feel.

1st Place Gold Prize Winner of the 29th Uji Cha Finished Tea Competition held by the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries of Japan. The competition was held on October 5, 2007. There were 15 entries for top quality finished Gyokuro. Our 1st place tea was released for sale in January of 2008 and now is now perfectly matured and ready to drink.

Made from Goko variety Aracha, which took 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th prizes for Top Quality Gyo Kuro in the 60th Kansai Tea Competition (Aracha Competition for Tea Farmers) held in September 2007 by the Japan Agriculture Association.

This tea is very rich with heavy flavor and mouthfeel. We have never tasted a Gyukoro with such strong umami and sweet flavors. This tea has very substantial notes of sweet Nori seaweed, sticky rice and evergreen. At first sip, its rich nutritious broth-like texture stands out as one-of-a-kind. This Gyukoro has phenomenal chi and is very refreshing and energizing.

The flavor of Gyokuro is developed by artisan farming techniques of shading the sun light and providing specific nutrition geared toward the tea bush variety and the unique growing conditions of a shaded tea garden. Tea bushes thrive on the sun light and shading creates a stressful environment for the tea bush. The proper shading and fertilization of a Gyokuro garden is very important and closely related to the quality and flavor of Gyokuro.

Gyokuro gardens are shaded by frame and straw. The shading duration varies by season and region. In Uji and in neighboring towns, the shading lasts for 30-40 days, whereas in Yame gardens and further north in Shizuoka’s Okabe area, the shading lasts for only 20 days. Uji teas are generally more umami and less brisk than teas from Yame or Okabe for various reasons. Shading, the selected tea bush varietal, and the elevation of the various regions contribute to the differences found in each region’s Gyokuro.

The shading starts at first bud sight in April and is completed sometime in May. During the last 5-8 days of shading, not to exceed 8 days, farmers add a second layer of straw, which acts as a double shade, blocking out about 90% of the sun’s rays. The shading forces the tea bush to search for light, making it work overtime to produce more chlorophyll. Chlorophyll, a pigment that gives green tealeaves their color, acts as a photoreceptor in the leaf, much like a solar panel, to facilitate photosynthesis, whereby the plant converts sunlight and carbon dioxide into its life energy.

For much more information about Gyokuro, please read our Extended Description (click the Tab above).

Food Pairing: The Inoka Hill Gyokuro has such an immense and delicious flavor that you may not want to taint the lingering aftertaste with any other flavor. In Japan, Gyokuro is paired with sweets like Wagashi, traditional confections often made with Mochi, Adzuki Bean paste, or fruit.

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1 Tasting Note

260 tasting notes

I tried this when I was out in San Francisco during the incredible tea tasting that Jesse led Jack and I through. This was a few weeks ago, so keep in mind that I am writing this from the dregs of memory. And off we go.

The first infusion of this tea [and most gyokuros, I believe] is done cold. Jesse let it sit for about 4 minutes or so, and then shook it out into the cup.


I know that I am not going to be able to adequately explain what this tasted like. First off, it is hella strong. It’s as if someone some mad scientist took spinach and zucchini and artichoke and avocado and freshly-mowed grass and extracted the flavors and then injected them all with PHP and steroids and squeezed them into a cup. Seriously, it will sucker-punch you if you aren’t ready for it. It’s unlike anything that I’ve ever tasted from a tea.

Subsequent infusions, with heated water, are much lighter and impossibly fresh. The grassy, vegetal notes fade substantially and they are joined with slightly sweeter and oceany flavors. It’s standing outside on the edge of a cliff that drops off into an ocean with a large meadow of cut grass, hay, and wildflowers right behind you. Jesse just kept it going, and going, and going, and it never diminished in flavor. I would need to spend more time with it to be able to start picking out specific flavors for you, but scheiße [pardon my German], it was so good. It also started building up that kind of high I get from a good pu-erh.

I’ve found myself thinking about it, weeks later, with a wistful dreaminess. With a heavy price tag, I shied away from picking it up when it was available, but now? Hmm. I don’t know. I’d consider it heavily, because as ridiculous as it sounds that tea could be worth it. Unfortunately, it’s gone now, and so Gyokuro Inoka Hill is going to be tacked down as the one who got away in my tea story. It was the perfect way to finish off the tasting, and judge all you like, but I’m a bit humbled that I had the opportunity to try it.

It just doesn’t feel right to give it anything less, so this seriously unique tea is going to get full marks.


Glad that someone around here tried this. The description on their site was so intriguing, when I was first browsing…I clicked to order…added another tea or two…went to check my cart and my EYEBALLS nearly ROLLED OUT OF MY HEAD, because the price was over $400. This was the culprit. L2check prices, right?

I’ve been curious ever since then about what it is that makes a tea worth such a king’s ransom. It sounds like it was delicious!


Whoa… wait, wait. Back the tea cup up. COLD.. ?? Wow… like cold or room temperature? What is the ratio of tea/water? You’ll have to excuse me, but I can’t even see the point of cold brewing… (just my own personal opinion of course)… ok now my head hurts from trying to wrap my my head around this concept… Are any other teas authentically done this way? Are all grades of Gyokuro done this way? I think we need a Gyokuro thread!


I know about the 104°F infusions (so says wiki), but cold – just for the first infusion? Very interesting …!

Miss Sweet

By cold do you mean that ice brewing method? I’ve never tried it with any of my Gyokuros but probably should!


@sophistre True story: I’m sitting here, shaking my head over the fact that I didn’t snatch this up when it went half off a few times. Still expensive, but a seriously missed opportunity. A very singular experience.

@Cofftea Rishi touches on it a little here: and I’ve seen it mentioned elsewhere. I didn’t brew it myself, obviously, but this wasn’t iced water. Room temperature, I think, and the ratio was roughly 1:1, from eyeballing it.

@Lauren Very interesting indeed. Each gyokuro is going to be a bit different, I imagine, but I find it all rather fascinating.

@Miss Sweet Not for this one, but I’m interested to try that, too! That first infusion is seriously not going to be for everyone, but I believe that it affects the later infusions as well.


Seriously awesome that you got the chance to try this little cup of wonder, tak-tak! It sort of didn’t get away, because you did get to have some of it! Seriously excited that you loved this.

Four Seasons, btw is delicious. I’m pretty sure you’d like SerendipiTea’s Milk Oolong. They taste like they’re in the same family. I’ll have to send some your way one of these days…

Tea Savant

OK, I see that everyone else is questioning the coldness of the first brew, so, I won’t add my further curiosity more than to say, thanks for illuminating a new thing about tea I didn’t know before!


@teaplz Thanks! Yes, I’m very glad that I got to try it. But I want more! Glad to hear you enjoyed Four Seasons – I’ll have to check it out!

@Tea Savant HAHAHA, yeah, I’ll have to dig up more links at some point, but I do remember reading/hearing that it also unlocks flavors for steeps afterwards. The cold steep is PUNGENT, but, perhaps surprisingly, I could totally drink another one right now. It’s like tea’s version of shots, I guess!


So the cold steep is just for the 1st one? I’m tempted to try this w/ my tencha since Networld suggested I treated it like a gyokuro.


Shinobicha Delete less than a minute ago As crazy as this sounds, here is the cold brew method. It works! Scroll down to where it says “The End of an Era” and then again, “Japan and China’s Single Estate Greens”

5 infusions: 1) a TINY (1 TBS) amount of ice cold water (5-7 mins), 2) then a little more room temp water (1 oz or so for 3-5 mins), 3) then maybe 2-3oz of cup of 140 water (2 mins), 4) full (Japanese size) cup 170 water (1 min), 5) full size 208 water (30 seconds).
That first infusion might sound silly, using so little water, but if you just take tiny sips out of something the size of a shot glass, it is incredibly delicious. Brewing this way prevents any overwhelming bitterness or astringency to come out as well

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