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Gyokuro Premium from Hibiki-An is great as an introduction to gyokuro teas. While it is not the highest quality gyokuro offered by the company, it is (like all their teas) a great value, providing the classic rich flavors of good gyokuro at a fraction of the typical cost. The tea does retain some bitterness, but this is counteracted by the inherent cream and vegetal notes. It is best brewed following the instructions on the bag, changing only brew time which should be 1 minute maximum rather than the suggested 1.5 / 2.
Gyokuro means “jade dew” and – disregarding matcha, which should be considered in a different category – is known as the highest class of Japanese green tea. It is distinguished from other Japanese teas such as sencha, hojicha, etc. by a shading period just before picking. The tea plants are blocked from direct sunlight for 20 days, forcing them to compensate for the lack of light by producing more chlorophyll (the chemical responsible for carrying out photosynthesis, and also what gives plants their green color). This enhances the sweetness of the tea and hence gives gyokuro its singular taste.
For reference, Hibiki-An offers four levels of quality for their teas, which – from lowest to highest – are: “superior”, “premium”, “super premium”, and “pinnacle”. They occasionally offer a fifth grade that is even better than “pinnacle” called “competition-grade pinnacle.”
Flavors: Corn Husk, Cream, Grass, Umami