Sugimoto Reserve Shizuku Gyokuro is the highest grade of gyokuro offered by Sugimoto Tea Company. The name shizuku (雫), meaning dewdrop, was chosen to represent the way this beautiful gyokuro’s essence flows into water. Today, we would like to share more about this unique tea and all of the things that make it so special.
What is Gyokuro?
Gyokuro is a green tea famous for its rich umami flavor and subtle sweetness. It is often thought of as one of the most luxurious types of Japanese teas and is favored among tea lovers. The unique taste of gyokuro comes from the fact that, like matcha, it is a shaded tea.
This means the tea leaves are shaded from the sun for about three weeks before they’re harvested. Shading tea leaves inhibits the process of photosynthesis and forces them to become more efficient at it. During photosynthesis, L-theanine and other naturally occurring compounds are converted into catechins, the compound responsible for some of the astringency found in green tea.
Because gyokuro is shaded, a higher proportion of L-theanine remains in the leaves instead of being converted into catechins. This gives the leaves the lingering umami flavor gyokuro is known for. Growing tea plants this way is an art form, as the act of shading plants causes them stress and overshading or undershading results in subpar tea. Therefore it takes years of experience for tea farmers to learn the optimal time to shade their gyokuro plants.
What makes Shizuku Gyokuro special?
Our Shizuku Gyokuro is a specific type of gyokuro known as Dento Hon Gyokuro (伝統本玉露). To be considered a Dento Hon Gyokuyo, a tea must meet several conditions. The first of these conditions is that the tea must be grown in Yame, Fukuoka on the southern island of Kyushu. This is similar to how sparkling wine must be produced in the Champagne region of France to be properly considered a champagne.
Yame has a long history of growing gyokuro dating back over 100 years. The region has rich, volcanic soil that brings out flavors in gyokuro tea leaves that cannot be reproduced anywhere else in the world. This means that you can taste a difference between a gyokuro grown elsewhere in Japan and those considered to be a Dento Hon Gyokuro.
Another condition a tea must meet to be considered a Dento Hon Gyokuro is the plants must be grown naturally. Many tea plants in Japan are rounded to maximize the yield, but this practice is forbidden for Dento Hon Gyokuro. Additionally, the tea plants must be traditionally shaded with tana (棚), a tent-like cover made from straw, rather than the black nylon used in the modern jikagise (直着せ) method. These plants must remain covered for at least 16 days with the tana covering both the top and back of the plant, rather than only the top, and block 95% of all sunlight.
Finally, all Dento Hon Gyokuro is handpicked by farmers. These factors ensure that Dento Hon Gyokuro is of the highest quality, a difference that is reflected in the superb taste.
We use a masterful blend of the Yabukita and Sae Midori cultivars in our Shizuku Gyokuro. This blend creates an incredible rainforest aroma accompanied by a strong umami sweet pea flavor. Shizuku Gyokuro also has a thick, luscious mouthfeel any tea lover will appreciate.
How should I brew Shizuku Gyokuro?
Because a core feature of gyokuro is the lower astringency, our Shizuku Gyokuro should be brewed at a lower temperature than most other Japanese teas. This is generally the case with premium Japanese green teas, but Shizuku Gyokuro’s is even lower than most of our other teas. It’s luxurious when brewed in a kyusu, or Japanese teapot, but we recommend experimenting with different brewing styles if you would like to enjoy the full spectrum of flavors that Shizuku Gyokuro can produce.
|Amount of Tea||Amount of Water||Water Temperature||Steeping Time|
|Hot Brew||5g (2 tsp)||60oz (180ml)||120-140F||3-4 min|
|Cold Brew||5g (2 tsp)||60oz (180ml)||Ice Water||10-15 min|
One method we recommend is shiboridashi (絞り出し). These palm-sized, handless brewing vessels are adapted for slow and cool tea brewing. The name literally translates as to squeeze out, and shiboridashi are known for their ability to “squeeze out” the natural umami qualities of shaded Japanese teas and premium senchas.
Because they hold less water than kyusu, Shizuku Gyokuro brewed in a shiboridashi is a completely different drinking experience. The lower water content causes the gyokuro to become thicker, almost like a broth, with strong umami flavor that coats your entire mouth and leaves you with an exceptional, lingering aftertaste. If you enjoy premium Japanese teas, investing in a shiboridashi will heighten your tea experience.
Another method for experiencing Shizuku Gyokuro is kooridashi (氷出し), or the process of making cold brew tea with ice. Using either a shiboridashi or a kyusu, add enough leaves for one serving of tea. Then, instead of adding hot or even ice water, fill the vessel with ice cubes. You can either place the vessel into your fridge overnight and wait for the ice to melt or leave it on your counter for an hour or two but after the ice fully melts, you will have a delectable cup of ice-cold Shizuku Gyokuro.
Because of the incredibly low temperature in this brewing method, it brings out the sweetness in the tea. It also helps reduce the bitterness and caffeine in the final cup of tea, which makes for a different experience than hot brewed gyokuro.