Japan, with its warm climate and ample rain, is a perfect environment for tea growing. Tea growing is thought to have begun here in the 8th century. While other countries grow their tea bushes on hillsides and pick teas by hand, Japanese gardens are meticulously planted in rows along hills close to natural water sources. Although some teas are hand-picked in Japan, most of the tea grown here is mechanically picked and processed using high tech machinery. Also, unlike other countries that designate their teas by regions or estates, Japanese teas are generally sold by styles.
Also known as Jade dew, this is a highly prized tea from Japan. The long, needle-shaped, deep-green leaves are produced from tea bushes that are shaded at the end of April, when the buds are about to bloom, and then harvested from only selected soft leaves. When the bushes show signs of new growth, black netting is placed over the bushes so that they are shaded from 90% of the sun. They continue to grow for approximately 20 days before they are then plucked. This shade grown method produces a tea with a higher caffeine, chlorophyll, and theanine content than other green teas, which leads to a sweet, milder tasting tea.
Production of this type of tea officially began in 1835 by the Yamamotoyama tea company. Gyokuro has a stronger aroma and more mellow taste than Sencha. Unlike Sencha, which is generally plucked from the Yabukita cultivar, Gyokuro comes from the Asahi tea bush cultivar as well as the cultivars Okumidori, Yamakai, and Saemidori. Many tea growing regions have developed cultivars for the production of more specialized, unique teas.
Brew tea between 122-140º - steep for 1.5 - 2 minutes. This tea lends itself to more than one infusion, without any loss of character.