GyoKuro! Precious Jade Dew Drop! Umami!
Thanks to Joshua, we had the pleasure of tasting four different GyoKuro samples today. For this purposes of this blog entry, I've written only about the Secret Garden that we carry.
One of the greatest aspects of loose leaf tea is having the ability to experiment and explore the many different nuances that each tea offers. With that in mind, my main goal was to use two different brewing methods to taste our current offering, Gyokuro Secret Garden. Gyokuro Secret Garden is a Kyotonabe Gyokuro made from a single Aracha batch which is matured for one year. Most Gyokuro connoisseurs will make their Gyokuro at very low temperatures and steep for short amounts of time. Since this is a matured Gyokuro, we want to extract all of the complex flavors including the creamy sweetness that many look for. The rich and creamy sweetness stems from high amino acids counts including L-Theanine being produced in early spring which is heightened by shading techniques and the unique composting and fertilization techniques developed by artisan farmers. The secret composting and fertilizing recipes are passed on from generation to generation and offer adequate nitrogen for this highly revered and purposely stressed plant.
For the cupping I used 5 grams of loose tea as suggested on our website. I know many use about 10 grams and will steep at lower temperatures, but I wanted to start with our own cupping guidelines to show how this tea would perform.
Brew one: 175° F, 5 grams, 3 minutes.
I found that the matured tea had amazing complexity when brewed at the 175° F temperature. There was an intense flavor of umami but along with the initial sweet and smooth creaminess were fresh green notes that lingered on the palate. I dreamily tasted pine with a consistency one of my colleagues called 'brothy'. There is a sweet and almost salty note that reminds me of the mist of the sea. The aroma and flavor changed and had a very strong lingering note of green bean. My final thought was that this cup was incredibly complex and it left me wanting a second infusion.
Brew two: 130° F, 5 grams, 3 minutes.
I then brewed the same tea at 130° F for three minutes. This cup was also quite nice BUT was very one dimensional. It was full of rich umami but the more complex notes of pine were lost.
I can understand that people love the delicate infusion and the creaminess that a lower water temperature will yield. I personally want complexity, I want the flavors to dance in my mouth and linger thereafter. I love that we all expect something different from our tea and it never seizes to amaze me how different teas prepared in various ways can please so many of us.
Water, tea and magic.
I thank Jenny for taking the pictures and I thank Ghazal for cupping the teas with us but most importantly, we all thank the dedicated and talented farmers who have given us this amazing gift of GyoKuro!