Gyokuro Face-off

Gyokuro is a tea that appeals to those tea drinkers who want high quality but also to those who want to go beyond the basics. It is considered the finest of the green teas grown and processed in Japan. Small wonder, then, when a tea gourmand orders a vendor’s version and is very particular about the condition of the leaves and the taste of the steeped liquid. Some comments expressing disappointment with the tea they received prompted me to do this Gyokuro face-off.

#1 Gyokuro Yamashiro from David’s Tea — 50g (1.76369 oz) $22

Was part of a sampler pack called Orient Express. The little tin had a tight seal that kept the leaves inside as fresh as when they were packed inside it. Their aroma and appearance were pure Gyokuro (a high-grade Japanese green tea), with a dark green color, thin needly shape, and fresh, slightly grassy aroma. The tea was smooth feeling, and the seafoody aroma in the cup did not come through on the palate fortunately but was a little planty instead. [complete review]

David’s Tea Gyokuro – click image to read my review
David’s Tea Gyokuro – click image to read my review

#2 Gyokuro from The English Tea Store — 4 oz List Price: $24.00  Vendor’s Price: $14.20

A comparatively affordably priced version of this prized green tea from Japan. The dry leaves are the typical dark green with a spinachy/kelpy aroma, a bit more broken up than some tea drinkers prefer, but definitely good quality.

The tea leaves are quite delicate, so breakage is normal.
The tea leaves are quite delicate, so breakage is normal.

For some tea aficionados, having more broken up tea leaves is not good. For me, it seems natural, considering how little moisture (4-6%) is left in the leaves after processing. In fact, it’s a total non-issue as long as the sweet flavor is there. Also, there are grades of Gyokuro just as there are grades of Sencha and other teas, and higher grades can be less broken. This affects your taste experience.

Another factor that will influence your taste experience with this tea is your steeping method. The vendor’s recommended steeping method: brew for 45 seconds to 3 minutes with water heated to 120–140º F (50–60º C), use about 4 grams (1 tsp) of the tea per 120 ml (4 ounces) water, depending upon your taste.

My recommendation: stick with no more than 1 minute steeping time for each infusion, you should be able to get at least 4, and possibly 5 or 6, mild yet satisfying infusions from the same small amount of tea leaves.

The dark green leaves steep up a pale yellow-green liquid.
The dark green leaves steep up a pale yellow-green liquid.

Hubby and I did 4 infusions from the same small amount (1.5 tsps) of dry leaves. The results:

  1. Pale yellow liquid with some particulates, light spinachy aroma, mild flavor that was pleasant, smooth, and lightly sweet.
  2. Slightly darker and a bit cloudy liquid, lots of particulates, a slight edge to the flavor but still full and smooth feel.
  3. Pale yellow-green liquid, tasting and smelling much like the first steeping but a bit stronger, since the leaves are opening more and more.
  4. Pale green liquid with a light taste that has a hint of sweetness (don’t expect it to taste like a spoonful of sugar).

One good thing to note is that a 4-ounce package will last you awhile, even if you enjoy some every day.

Face-off results

I must confess a tie here. Both teas have the typical dry appearance, steep up a mild yet flavorful liquid, and hold up under multiple steepings. However, the price difference is astounding. Being the frugal person I am, I will endure a bit more broken up leaves to save some serious cash.

See various descriptions of this tea that I found online on my Tea Time Blog.

Disclaimer: The tea samples were provided by their respective companies. Note also that prices shown are as of the date of this article.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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