|Gyokura literally translated means “pearl dew”. Gyokuro is a fine green tea selected from a grade of green tea known as Tencha. Gyokuro’s name refers to the pale green color of the liquid blend.
Gyokuro teas are processed only with the limited first flush leaf in order to achieve a rich and round flavor with a subtle pale lemon-green color. Gyokuro’s unique characteristics are achieved by the use of special cultivation. The tea plant is grown in the shade of bamboo mats for approximately twenty days before harvesting. You can see a picture of this particular growing process to the left. Initially depriving the plant of direct sunlight reduces leaf photosynthesis, which alters the proportions of sugars, amino acids, flavanols and other substances responsible for tea aroma and taste. Depriving the plant of sunlight also causes it to over-produce the amount of chlorophyll and slows down the leaf growth, increases the amount of caffeine, and makes the leaves a bit darker, with a bolder green color, than most green teas.
Gyokura is considered to be the highest grade of tea available in Japan and is usually quite expensive and is not widely available outside Japan. Most of this premium tea is grown in Uji district near Kyoto on the island of Honshu. The Uji district which is the oldest tea producing area in Japan.
Where Gyokuro is grown: The main Gyokuro producing regions are Yame in Fukuoka, Uji in Kyoto and Okabe in Shizuoka Prefecture.
Popularity of Gyokura: Gyokuro makes an excellent light evening tea.
Qualities of flavor and aroma: Its flavor is generally sweet and delicate with notes of grass.
Matcha, which is used in the Japanese tea ceremony (chanoyu, or, sometimes, chaji) is made by grinding Gyokuro into a fine powder. It is then mixed with water using a whisk.
Types of Gyokura green tea:
Matcha is a powdered green tea used in Japanese tea ceremonies. In Japanese cuisine, matcha is often used to dye foods green (soba noodles, for instance), and in a modern-day adaptation it is also used to prepare green tea ice cream. An alternative spelling that is seen frequently is maccha.
This well-known green tea powder is used extensively in the Japanese Tea Ceremony (Cha No-Yu). Matcha is regarded as a ‘heavy’ green tea, but in fact can be prepared as a strong (koicha) or weak tea (usucha) depending on the way it is prepared. (You can read about the tea utensils used to prepare Matcha in our glossary)
How Matcha is Processed: Matcha has similar origins to Gyokuro, i.e. an early season, high grade, shade-grown tea. After steaming the Matcha leaf is comprehensively stone ground to a light and fine green powder. The high level of Catechins it contains is a consequence of the very small particle size of the processed leaf.
Regions where Matcha is grown: The most famous Matcha-producing region is Nishio in Aichi (on the main island of Honshu). This tea is specifically referred to as Nishiocha.
Popularity of Matcha: Prized for Japanese tea ceremonies and consequently the best grade of Matcha are hard to find outside Japan. Matcha is generally expensive compared to other forms of tea, although its price depends on its quality.
Qualities of flavor and aroma: The flavor of Matcha is dominated by its amino acids. The highest grades of matcha have more intense sweetness & deeper flavor than the standard or coarser grades of tea harvested later in the year.