You know what, I have excitement building in me that I was going to wait to share, but if I don’t let it out I shall pop! So, for most of my gaming life (I cannot remember a time in my life that I did not have access to a gaming system, my dad and I hoarded them) I had a gaming system and pile of games in my bedroom. I would re-arrange my entire room to make it easy to lay in bed while gaming, because yours truly spent a lot of days home sick from school or too sick to play, I spent that time alternating between gaming and reading. Since living in Kansas City, the Xbox360 has been in the family room, and I have just hated that! Thanks to a little finagling, I will be getting a nice monitor and moving the Xbox to my bedroom, finally, on those sick days I can lay in bed and game without having to interact with anyone. That sounds a little mean in retrospect, just usually when I feel really icky I like being by myself, it is a very old habit I am not too likely to break. So, I am excited!!
It has been too long since this Gaijin had some Gyokuro, something I am rectifying right now, with Yunomi’s Kurihara Tea #2 Heritage Gyokuro Tea! The heritage part of this name refers to the super traditional way of shading this tea with handmade straw or bamboo mats, giving it an extra level of awesome. In case you are new to the ‘Jade Dew’ (that is what Gyokuro translates to) let me take you on a very green adventure! This Japanese tea is different from Sencha by being covered by a shade for a length of its growing time, this of course depends on how high of a grade of Gyokuro, the longer the shading the higher the quality. This is the most sought after and expensive tea to come out of Japan, now, if only I had a fancy Shiboridashi to brew it in using the specialized brewing method. So, enough rambling, onto sniffing the tea! The aroma of the vibrantly green leaves (seriously, they are as green as pine needles) is delightfully sweet, a blend of sweet chestnuts, wildflower honey, freshly mown hay, sweetgrass, and a tiny bit of distant wildflowers. Something about the aroma of Japanese green teas (especially the very verdant ones) reminds me of summer, either you have the sweet and green ones like this Gyokuro, or the sea air ones like some Sencha. Truly, this tea smells absolutely amazing, I might have actually inhaled a leaf after sniffing this tea so much!
Since brewing Gyokuro in the traditional way requires a large amount of leaf to a small amount of water, I decided to not use my Kyusu or make-shift Houhin (the holes are a little too big for a delicate tiny tea) and brewed the leaves in my double boiler-tea alchemy tool, for extra visual fun! The leaves look like they are almost bioluminescent while steeping, it is so pretty. The aroma of the steeped leaves is super sweet and very green, there are notes of sweet chestnut, cut hay, sweetgrass, and crushed bamboo leaves giving it a touch of sharpness. At the finish there is a tiny hint of kelp to bring in that umami note. The liquid is delicate, not at all faint, but the difference between a piece of silk floating through the air and dropping a book, both are noticeable but one is prettier to look at. There are notes of sweet chestnut (it seems to be the dominant note so far) and hay with underpinnings of bamboo and kelp. The liquid balances sweet, green, and savory very well.
So, first steeping time, and let me start by saying that this tea is thick! I love that about Gyokuro, when brewed with the traditional methods it is often called soupy or syrupy, and that is an apt description. It coats the mouth to an almost oily extent, almost like drinking warm, partially formed jello. The taste is an adventure, it starts sweet and nutty with chestnut notes and fresh hay. After this initial nutty sweetness the unami kicks in at the midtaste, it is fascinating, a blend of cooked spinach, bamboo shoots, and a touch of kelp. It tastes like eating the finished Gyokuro leaves as a salad. After this the taste goes to a slightly dry and a little bitter green like kale and vegetation. The finish is sweet grass and lingering honey.
For the second steep I upped the temperature and shortened the steeping time, as per Yunomi’s recommendation. The aroma is much more green this time around, with strong notes of spinach, kelp, and even a touch of kale in there as well. The finish is sweet with a touch of chestnut. So this steeping is a glorious example of how a tea can evolve, where the previous steep was sweet with a touch of umami, this tea is a kick in the face of savory notes. It is intense and delicious! Like a blend of kelp, kale, spinach, bamboo leaves and shoots, it tastes like a salad and growing things. There is bitterness, but it is bitterness of vegetation and green things, a bitterness that I absolutely love (and have come to realize that some people really dislike, much to my confusion) it evokes the foods of my youth with turnip greens and collards. The finish has a chestnut and wildflower honey sweetness that lingers, along with the smoothness of the mouthfeel. It is times like this that I wonder, why do I ever let myself run out of Gyokuro?