I just wanted to start this tasting off by thanking the company NIO. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to taste a variety of their green teas and I have loved all of them. This Gyokuro was a favorite of mine.
I have always loved Gyokuro so I may be a bit biased. For those of you who may not know, Gyokuro is considered to be a cut above the other Japanese green teas. This tea is known as the “Emperor’s tea” because there historically been competitions among the tea farmer’s to produce the best quality Gyokuro, and in the end the emperor gets to choose their favorite. The name in Japanese translate to “jade dew” because of the pale green color it makes when it infuses with the water.
This tea is really a treat. The subtle sweetness of the Gyokuro mixed with the smooth, buttery aftertaste that lingers in the back of your tongue. Unlike the Tamaryokucha, the Gyokuro does not have a lot of body to it. It hits you initially with the subtle sweetness and then you begin to notice the smooth vegetal aftertaste. You won’t notice any bitterness at all with this tea. There are also no tannins to be found in here, so you don’t get that dry mouth feel that sometimes accompanies some of the other teas. That is one of the draws to Gyokuro. These teas are very fresh and vegetal and do not have any bitterness to them whatsoever. There are also almost no stems to be found in this tea whatsoever. If you really look hard enough, you may be able to pick out one or two pale yellow stems in the mix, but they are few and far between. This is a reminder of how small differences in the tea can completely change the flavor. This tea is a world apart from the Tamaryokucha. Even thought these two teas come from the same plant, and are grown in basically the same part of the world, they could not taste more different. Little things like the absence of stems and a few extra weeks of shade can mean the world of difference in terms of the flavor of the final tea.
The final tasting notes of this tea are the subtle sweet notes that touch the tip of your tongue in the beginning and then the savory umami flavor that touches the back of the tongue towards the end. These umami notes are complimented by more subtle notes of hazelnut and fresh vegetables. This is a very balanced flavor that lingers for quite a long time, even minutes after the sip is complete. Although for the most part, the tea is formed into beautiful deep green needles, there are some tiny specs of tea leaves that make it into the glass. I find that this is actually quite nice, it adds more flavor to the tea and it is fun to watch as the little specs of tea dance at the bottom of the cup as you sip.
The second steeping of this tea is noticeably paler in color and weaker in taste. It turns from a deep yellowish green to a light golden color. The flavor is still there, it is light and refreshing but you can still notice the umami aftertaste. The sweetness in the beginning is lost, along with the aftertaste of steamed vegetables, but the umami flavor that hangs on afterwards is still relatively strong.
This particular blend of Gyokuro comes from Kagoshima, a part of southern Honshu, the main island of Japan. The farmer, Mr. Sakamoto has been planting tea since 1985, and he is one of the most renown farmers of green tea in Japan.
This is one of the Gyokuro blends supplied by the company NIO. They have an excellent selection of Japanese green