What is Gyokuro

Gyokuro (pronounced with a hard ‘g’ gyoh-koo-roh) is a type of Japanese green tea that has been shaded prior to harvesting. Gyokuro is typically considered to be a luxury quality tea, and it’s price often reflects this.

The name gyokuro — 玉露 — means jade dew. It was originally discovered by Kahei Yamamoto in 1835, and the process was perfected in the later part of the 19th century.

Gyokuro leaves

Gyokuro is shaded for three weeks before harvesting. This gives the leaves extra amino acids, which in turn gives the tea a sweeter taste.

Equipment Required

Gyokuro is brewed in small quantities with a high proportion of leaf. For this reason, it is important to brew gyokuro in a short, wide vessel.

The typical teapots used are a houhin (below) or a shibodashi. Any Japanese teapot can be used as long as it fulfills the short and wide requirements.

Houhin, a brown banko Japanese teapot

Being very sensitive to brewing conditions, it is highly recommended to use a thermometer, and a scale that’s accurate to 0.1g.

Brewing Gyokuro

Leaf: 2.2g/50ml
Temp: 50C (122F) - 60C (140F)
Time: 1:30 - 3:00 mins

Gyokuro uses 1.5 to 2 times the amount of leaf compared to sencha. The temperature is also significantly lower, which is between 50 and 60C (122 – 140F).

The time varies between 1.5 to 3 minutes. Gyokuro is traditionally brewed with the lid off of the teapot. This allows the brewer to watch the leaves as they are steeping; the optimal time to pour is when the leaves have unfurled.

As the brewing temperature is so low, preheating is an important part of the brewing process. Pass a small amount of hot water through your teaware before pouring in the water you will use to brew. Dispose of this water and pass the brewing water from your cups to your teapot, and back to the cups.

thermometer measuring the temperature of water before being brewed

Place your pre-measured leaf into the teapot while waiting for the water to cool to a couple degrees hotter than the desired temperature. Once the water is ready, pour it into the teapot and leave the lid off. Observe the leaves and wait for them to unfurl. This usually occurs around the 2:00 – 2:30 mark.

Gyokuro steeping as the leaves unfurl

When the steeping has completed, put the lid back onto the teapot and pour the liquid into your cups.

Drinking Technique

Gyokuro is enjoyed best in small sips. To maximize the tasting experience, roll the small amount of tea around your tongue before swallowing.

Later Infusions

Gyokuro can be re-steeped many times. A general rule of thumb is to brew the second infusion for 30 seconds at the same temperature as the first, the third a few degrees hotter for 1:30, and fourth and fifth for several minutes, a few degrees hotter each time.

Watch How to Brew Gyokuro