Thursday, January 20, 2011

2010 Gyokuro Gokoh Competition Grade

The sun magically returned the day after my last post and has been shining ever since, reviving my demand of Japanese green tea. To celebrate the fact, I decided to drink something really special today – out of all competition grade greens in 2010 Teamountain offering, this one seemed to be the most promising.

Picked in Yame, Fukuoka, one of the most famous Gyokuro-producing regions of Japan in May, this tea was made of Gokoh cultivar, which is considered the most suitable for Gyokuro. Just like the previously mentioned Gyokuro Saemidori, it competed in last year's National Tea Competition of Japan. This is the last sample kindly sent by Martin Spimr of Teamountain with my order; a sample which I'd been sparing for quite a long time, waiting for the right moment to open it.

These leaves are unusually beautiful even for a good Gyokuro – very uniform and even, quite long needles, plastic on touch and with typically blueish-green shine. Their smell is rich, sweet, deep and milky, sophisticated and wide, with notes ranging from sweet cream and milk to ripe fruit and pines.

Traditional way of preparation is a must for such tea – water is therefore cooled down to 50°C and carefully poured on the whole sample.

After four minutes of brewing, the first infusion is ready; it has unusually transparent, clear yellow color and slightly oily consistency, accompanied by humble, sweet smell of fruit and vanilla. The first sip is almost a shock for tongue - this taste is unbelievable, extremely rich and heavy with dominant tones of milk, sweetness and umami, the richest and vividest umami I've experienced in tea for a long time. This Gyokuro is quite warm in character, yet still possess a fresh, almost “mountainous” nuance of conifers and pines, accompanied by pure, relaxing feeling of a walk in the woods. As if it still weren't enough, the liquor further contains hints of various sweet, ripe fruit, most notably plums and pears.

The second infusion is prepared with a bit warmer water and shorter brewing time, resulting in a light-greenish yellow brew, which is now predominantly fruity in taste, a bit lighter and still very clear and refined. Out of many kinds of fruit this tea resembles, plums are still the most outstanding, followed by pears, apples and even pineapple. This infusion is atypically smooth for a second brew of Gyokuro, which usually brings a bit of spiciness and sharpness to the tea – not in this case, however, this tea seems to keep its noble sweetness much longer than anything else.

This brew is followed by long, mouthfilling aftertaste with vivid sweetness, umami and creamy milkiness.

Thank you, Martin, for sending this sample and for an opportunity to try such an amazing tea.


  1. Michal,
    I like the atmosphere your photos express, I like your teaware, and this tray by Mirka Randova. I find all this really fits with japanese greens...

    I am a french fan of japanese green teas. Among which I particularly like Yoshiaki Hiruma's teas, his Fukamushi single cultivar Hokumei, Fukumidori, Yumewakaba...and his bihakkô and hanhakkô too...

    I will come back here ...

  2. Great looking leaves. A mouth watering review. Are you sure you are not working for Martin? :)

  3. Lionel,
    thank you for the kind words. I also find Yoshiaki Hiruma's teas outstanding and especially enjoy his experiments like bihakkou and hanhakoucha, which never seem to stop surprising me :)

    Ho Go,
    haha... yes, I am very much sure that I am not working for any tea vendor nor any tea-related business :-) The thing is that tea-market in Czech republic and Slovakia is quite small, just as are small these countries - and out of the very few vendors selling quality Japanese teas, Martin's offering is by far the biggest and most interesting. Therefore, most of what I drink comes from Teamountain :-)

  4. Thanks for your lovely post about Gyokuro -- and beautiful photos too. I will have to try Hiruma's and Teamountain's Gyokuro soon.

  5. flockofteacosy,
    thanks, I really appreciate your words and am glad you enjoyed the post.