On a recent trip to Teavana, I decided to buy their Gyokuro Imperial Green Tea. I was looking to buy some Pi Lo Chun, but found out that it has been discontinued, what a shame that was a great tea. See a list of discontinued teas from Teavana. The sales person had recommended some Dragonwell (longjing) tea, but I was looking for more of a spring flavor tea. I had heard about Gyokuro, but had never tried it. Usually I drink Chinese green teas, but I have read so much about Gyokuro that I finally bought 2 oz, and I'm glad I did.
Unlike Chinese green teas that are heat cured in ovens to stop the fermentation process, Gyokuro leaves are steamed which keeps the fresh taste of the plant. This gives the tea a flavor of just the tea leaf. There are no notes of smoke or roasting, this is a purely green tea, in Japan the tea is known as "jade dew" because of its fresh taste. Gyokuro is the most expensive and rare of Japanese teas. It is a very delicate tea that when brewed correctly possesses a sweet characteristic. What is unique to Gyokuro is that it is shade grown which increases the chlorophyll in the leaves and reduces the tannins, which eliminates bitter astringent properties to the tea.
When opening the bag of tea, I immediately noticed the smell. The tea was very grassy up front, and almost did smell like the dew you smell on a rainy morning. I was also impressed at the size of the leaves. There was no dust in the bag, and each leaf was of respectable size, they almost looked like small grass clippings. The color of the leaf was a dark rich green which is a result of the high chlorophyll content.
This is a very fragile tea. It took me several brews in order to get it to taste right. I used the Tea for iPhone App to create tasting notes to brew the perfect cup. The outside of the bag has Teavana's steeping suggestions, however it does not differentiate different styles of green tea. As I have said before, not all teas are brewed alike.Teavana recommends 1 teaspoon of tea for no more than a minute at 175 degrees. I followed this recommendation, and found the tea to be a bit weak. After playing with different amounts of teas and steeping times, I found my personal preference was 1.5 teaspoons for 90 seconds at about 150 degrees. I found that the tea became bitter when brewed at a hot temperature, which I found odd because this tea should not become bitter. Although the tea tasted good following Teavana's recommendation, the high temperature masked the subtle characteristics that differentiate this tea from a sencha. At a cooler temperature, I felt like I could taste leaf itself. This is a very grassy tea that is medium bodied. The after taste left a pleasant hint of greens in the mouth that was refreshing. The second steeping I brewed for 2 minutes, it resulted in a sweeter tea with less grassy notes. It was much lighter, I did not steep it for a third time.
This tea is $20.00 for 2 oz at Teavana, it may be purchased on their websiteor at one of their many retail locations. At about a dollar per brew this isn't a tea that I would drink every morning, however it is a great tea to have on the weekend when I have time to brew it correctly and drink it slowly and savor it. I went to Teavana in search for Pi Lo Chun, but I left with a very satisfying cup of Gyokuro Imperial that I would buy again.