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Key Insights

  • Gyokuro is a high-grade Japanese green tea known for its sweet, umami-rich flavor and vibrant green color.
  • The tea is grown in the shade for approximately three weeks before harvesting, enhancing its unique qualities.
  • There are various types of Gyokuro, each with distinct characteristics.
  • Gyokuro offers numerous health benefits, including antioxidants and improved mental alertness.
  • Proper selection and storage are crucial for maintaining the quality of Gyokuro.

Origins of Gyokuro

Historical Background

The history of Gyokuro dates back to the early 19th century. It was first produced in 1835 by Yamamoto Kahei, a tea merchant from Uji, Kyoto. Inspired by the shading techniques used in the production of tencha (the base material for matcha), Yamamoto experimented with shading the tea plants before harvesting, resulting in a tea with a distinctive sweet and umami-rich flavor.

Introduction to Japan

Gyokuro quickly gained popularity among tea connoisseurs and became a symbol of high-quality Japanese green tea. Its unique flavor and labor-intensive production process set it apart from other types of green tea, establishing its reputation as one of the finest teas in Japan.

Development and Popularization

Over the years, the techniques for producing Gyokuro have been refined and perfected, with regions like Uji, Yame, and Shizuoka becoming renowned for their high-quality Gyokuro. Today, Gyokuro is celebrated both in Japan and internationally for its exceptional taste and quality.

Gyokuro Production Process

Shading the Tea Plants

The defining characteristic of Gyokuro production is the shading of the tea plants. Approximately three weeks before harvesting, the tea bushes are covered with straw mats or synthetic shading materials to block about 85-90% of sunlight. This shading process increases the chlorophyll content and reduces the tannins, resulting in a sweeter, less astringent tea.


Gyokuro is typically harvested in late April to early May. Only the youngest, most tender leaves are picked by hand to ensure the highest quality. The timing of the harvest and the careful selection of leaves are crucial to the final flavor of the tea.

Steaming and Rolling

Immediately after harvesting, the leaves are steamed to prevent oxidation and preserve their vibrant green color. The steaming process for Gyokuro is slightly shorter than that for other green teas to retain more of its delicate flavors. After steaming, the leaves are carefully rolled to release their juices and shape them into fine needle-like structures.

Drying and Sorting

The rolled leaves are then dried to reduce moisture content and ensure a longer shelf life. The drying process is meticulously controlled to maintain the tea's quality. Finally, the leaves are sorted and graded based on their size, shape, and quality, with the highest grades reserved for the best leaves.

Types of Gyokuro

Uji Gyokuro

Uji Gyokuro, from the Uji region near Kyoto, is considered the pinnacle of Gyokuro production. Known for its refined and delicate flavor, Uji Gyokuro has a rich history and is highly prized by tea connoisseurs.

Yame Gyokuro

Yame Gyokuro, from the Yame region in Fukuoka Prefecture, is another highly esteemed variety. It is known for its full-bodied flavor and deep umami taste. The region's climate and soil conditions contribute to the unique characteristics of Yame Gyokuro.

Shizuoka Gyokuro

Shizuoka Prefecture, the largest tea-producing region in Japan, also produces high-quality Gyokuro. Shizuoka Gyokuro is known for its well-balanced flavor and aroma, offering a slightly different profile compared to Uji and Yame Gyokuro.

Health Benefits of Gyokuro

Rich in Antioxidants

Gyokuro is packed with antioxidants, particularly catechins, which help fight free radicals in the body. These antioxidants are known for their potential to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and promote overall health.

Enhances Mental Alertness

The combination of caffeine and L-theanine in Gyokuro provides a gentle energy boost without the jitters commonly associated with coffee. L-theanine also promotes relaxation and improves focus, making it an excellent choice for mental clarity.

Supports Weight Loss

The catechins in Gyokuro have been shown to boost metabolism and increase fat burning. Drinking Gyokuro regularly can aid in weight management when combined with a healthy diet and exercise.

Promotes Heart Health

Regular consumption of Gyokuro can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. The antioxidants and polyphenols in the tea contribute to improved cardiovascular health.

Strengthens the Immune System

Gyokuro contains vitamins C and E, which are essential for a healthy immune system. These vitamins, along with the tea's antioxidant properties, help the body fend off infections and illnesses.

How to Select and Store Gyokuro

Selecting High-Quality Gyokuro

When selecting Gyokuro, look for leaves that are vibrant green and have a fresh, grassy aroma. High-quality Gyokuro leaves should be uniform in size and shape, with a glossy appearance. Avoid leaves that are dull, broken, or have a brownish hue, as these indicate lower quality.

Storing Gyokuro Properly

Proper storage is essential to maintain the freshness and quality of Gyokuro. Store the tea in an airtight container, away from light, heat, and moisture. It is best to keep the container in a cool, dark place, such as a pantry or cupboard. Avoid storing Gyokuro in the refrigerator, as the moisture can degrade the quality of the tea.


What is the best way to brew Gyokuro?

To brew the perfect cup of Gyokuro, use water that is around 50-60°C (122-140°F). Steep the tea for 2-3 minutes for the first infusion and slightly longer for subsequent infusions. Use about one teaspoon of tea leaves per cup. The lower brewing temperature and longer steeping time help to extract the sweet, umami-rich flavors of Gyokuro.

How does Gyokuro differ from other green teas?

Gyokuro is grown in the shade for approximately three weeks before harvesting, which increases its chlorophyll content and reduces tannins. This results in a sweeter, less astringent tea with a rich umami flavor, setting it apart from other green teas like Sencha, which are grown in full sunlight.

Can Gyokuro help with weight loss?

Yes, Gyokuro contains catechins that can boost metabolism and increase fat burning. Regular consumption of Gyokuro, combined with a healthy diet and exercise, can aid in weight management.

Is Gyokuro high in caffeine?

Gyokuro contains moderate amounts of caffeine, less than coffee but more than some other types of tea. The combination of caffeine and L-theanine in Gyokuro provides a gentle energy boost and improved focus.

What are the main health benefits of Gyokuro?

Gyokuro is rich in antioxidants, supports mental alertness, promotes heart health, aids in weight loss, and strengthens the immune system. It is a nutritious beverage that can contribute to overall well-being.

Can I reuse Gyokuro leaves for multiple infusions?

Yes, Gyokuro leaves can be reused for multiple infusions. Each infusion will have a slightly different flavor profile, with the first being the most intense. Subsequent infusions can be steeped slightly longer to extract more flavor.