Gyokuro 101

A Guide to Japanese Gyokuro Tea

Guide Contents:

  • What Is Japanese Gyokuro Tea?
  • How Is Gyokuro Produced?
  • Sugimoto Tea Company Gyokuro Teas
    • How To Brew Gyokuro

What Is Japanese Gyokuro Tea?

What is gyokuro? Like matcha, gyokuro is a shaded Japanese green tea. The difference lies in post-harvest processing. Gyokuro is considered to be the finest loose leaf Japanese green tea.


How Is Gyokuro Produced?

Around three weeks before harvest, gyokuro leaves are shaded from the sun. Shading contributes to higher operating costs, which makes this tea more expensive than non-shaded teas.

There are two typical methods of shading:

  • Through the use of the traditional “tana cover,” which are tent-like structures made from bamboo and straw

The second method is the simpler, more modern “jikagise” method wherein the leaves are covered with black fabric.


What Does Shading Do to Tea Leaves?

Shading causes the tea leaves to receive limited amounts of sunlight which inhibits photosynthesis. Usually, during photosynthesis, L-theanine converts into catechins, and it will only do so through exposure to sunlight. Thus, if there is no sunlight, then L-theanine starts to build up in the tea plant.

However, too much shading can be harmful to the tea plants and can cause them to die. Finding the optimal amount of shading for each year’s harvest conditions is a special skill developed by gyokuro farmers.


How Does Shading Affect the Flavor of Gyokuro?

The shading that produces L-theanine has a strong effect on the flavor of the tea. It gives gyokuro its characteristic umami flavor, highlighted with sweet undertones. Additionally, gyokuro has less astringency because it contains less catechins.

As mentioned above, photosynthesis converts L-theanine into catechins, and catechins are responsible for the astringency in tea. Thus, the less photosynthesis, the less catechins, the more L-theanine.

After shading, the post-harvest processing for gyokuro is similar to the processing for sencha.


Sugimoto Tea Company Gyokuro Teas

Gyokuro — Our Gyokuro produces a light green color and has a deep, complex flavor with a unique sweetness from its high Theanine content.

Sugimoto Reserve "Shizuku" GyokuroGrown in Yame, Fukuoka, this tea is a very traditional style gyokuro made from Yabukita and Sae Midori (meaning “Crystal Clear Green”) cultivars. It has an incredible natural rainforest aroma accompanied by a strong umami and sweet pea flavor with a full mouthfeel.


How to Brew Gyokuro

Tea Type

Amount of Tea

Amount of Water

Water Temperature

Steeping Time

Gyokuro

1 Tbsp. (5g)

6 oz.

120-140 °F

3-4 min.



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