To round off the week(~ish) of Japanese tea reviews, I dug through many a Tupperware container in the dark with curlers threatening to fly off me this morning to bring you this review.
Gyokuro, often referred to in the West as “Jade Dew” uses the kanji (玉露) (with the totally non-phonetic reading “gyokuro”) that literally mean “jewel-like dewdrop”. “Jade Dew” refers to the pale color of diffusion during steeping but honestly, I’m not sure how. Gyokuro is distinct (supposedly) from sencha in that it’s grown in the shade which will cause the caffeine content to increase and the bitterness to decrease and allows for a unique scent. Sadly, I cannot corroborate much of that lore as I’ve only had a few different examples in my life.
I can tell you about this tea though. Asahi Gyokuro is made from one of the four species traditionally used for gyokuro, Asahi. It has a full, leafy green nettle-like scent that reminds me of my mother’s flower garden. Interestingly, the spent leaves are much darker and fuller than the raw tea and swell to enormous size. The texture is gritty and VERY astringent. In taste, Asahi Gyokuro is a delightfully smooth if ticklish, reminiscent of a Chun Mee. However, thanks to its fineness and thinness, it’s easily identifiable as Japanese. I’d agree it’s slightly less bitter than some Japanese greens but not all. It’s also not as high in caffeine as some Japanese greens I’ve had, so I’m kind of skeptical about the tea lore surrounding Gyokuro.
Asahi Gyokuro can be purchased occasionally at By the Pound for a meager $74.99 per lb. And yes, it’s totally worth it. ;)