I never thought that Cliff, my huz and avid Capital Grounds French Roast coffee drinker, would ever turn me onto a new tea. We had stopped into Dobra Teahouse to blow some time and Cliff found this gem on the menu:
GYOKURO KYOTO: An excellent, very distinguished Japanese green tea. Its delicious taste and fresh, grassy scent of spring offer a touch of heaven in your cup. This tea is one of the most valued products of the Nippon islands. It is picked by hand in specially shaded fields and guarantees a rare experience, enhanced by an original method of preparation. Dark green, flat, subtle leaves of uniform size give a fresh grassy aroma and a gourmet taste. Gyokuro tea is much prized for the characteristically strong taste that is especially pronounced when it is carefully brewed in miniature infusion bowls. It is usual to make three infusions from the same leaves, allowing the superior quality of this tea to be fully enjoyed.
Gyokuro is Japan’s finest tea, and is traditionally reserved for special occasions and to serve to guests. As soon as the tea begins to bud in the beginning of spring, the tea bushes covered with bamboo, reed or canvas mats to shade the plants by 90%. The greatly reduced light for about 20 days, causes reduced tannin levels (bitterness), but increased chlorophyll levels resulting in the characteristic dark green leaves with a sweet, mild flavor.
At harvest time, the most tender leaves and buds are gathered by hand and are immediately steamed to seal in the flavor and to prevent fermentation. Then the leaves are fluffed and pressed until only 30% of their original moisture remains. Finally the leaves are rolled until they form emerald needles, and are sorted to remove any stems or damaged leaves.