Before we talk about gyokuro genmaicha, let’s first talk about what genmaicha is. Genmaicha essentially translates to “brown rice tea” and it is made by mixing toasted rice with tea leaves.
This tea has humble origins, as it used to be used during times of economic hardship to make the tea supplies last longer. By adding the toasted rice, you bring down the price of the tea, so people didn’t have to give up their precious tea.
Now, the tea is enjoyed at tea shops all around the world. People love it because the warm nutty flavors from the roasted rice make the perfect complement to the slightly sweet and vegetal flavors of the green tea leaves. The tea is also low in caffeine, which means it can be enjoyed later on in the day.
But what is Gyokuro genmaicha? In the next section, we’ll discuss what makes the leaves used in the gyokuro genmaicha tea so special, and how they are produced.
How is Gyokuro Genmaicha Made
As the name would suggest, gyokuro genmaicha tea is a genmaicha tea made from gyokuro leaves. This tea is quite rare, as gyokuro is a very difficult tea to produce.
Before the harvest, the farmer will cover the tea plants with a special type of netting called Kabuse. When the tea leaves are exposed to sunlight, they will begin to convert theanine into catechins. These catechins offer the tea protection against the UV lights, but they also produce a bitter flavor in the tea.
If a farmer wants to produce a smoother and sweeter tea, they will shade the tea plants in order to reduce the catechins and therefore the bitterness. This concept is taken to the extreme when it comes to shaded teas like those used in the gyokuro genmaicha.
To produce the gyokuro genmaicha green tea, the tea plants will need to be shaded for 3 weeks before the harvest. Then the youngest sprouts on the tea plant will be selected, as these are the sweetest in flavor and highest in nutrients. These leaves will then be steamed, rolled and dried to be used in the finest gyokuro genmaicha.
These long shaded and finely selected leaves really create a rich sweet and savory flavor. This flavor is called “umami” in Japanese and it is the same word used to describe hearty dishes like miso soup. The savory flavor comes from the strong presence of amino acids that are built up during the shading process. This sweet and savory flavor really combines well with the nutty flavors of the toasted rice.
What does Gyokuro Genmaicha Taste Like?
The flavor of gyokuro genmaicha is much sweeter compared to a typical genmaicha tea. As we mentioned before, this has to do with the long shading process, which renders the tea much smoother and sweeter.
This smooth and sweet flavor makes the perfect complement to the warm and nutty flavors of the toasted rice. This tea has a light buttery flavor with a lingering cereal finish. The taste is very soothing and reminiscent of a nice bowl of steamed rice.
Where is our gyokuro genmaicha green tea made?
The gyokuro genmaicha tea is from Uji, a region famous for its production of green tea. The first Japanese tea was cultivated at Kozanji temple, not too far from Uji. Later on, tea production began to shift south and Uji became a hotbed for tea production, particularly matcha. Still to this day Uji has a reputation of producing some of the best green tea and many tourists come from all over the world to take part in tea ceremonies here. The gyokuro genmaicha is an excellent continuation of the proud legacy of Uji tea.
Who makes the gyokuro genmaicha tea
This Gyokuro genmaicha green tea is made by the farmer Takada Masahiro in Uji. His company Chanoka dates back to 1900 when his great grandfather started their first tea garden in Uji and since then they have dedicated their lives to growing and producing some of the best teas in Japan.
Why is it rare to find imperial gyokuro genmaicha japanese loose leaf green tea organic
It is quite difficult to find organic gyokuro genmaicha green tea for a couple of different reasons. First, gyokuro tea is typically prepared on its own, without being combined with toasted rice. Genmaicha is often made with less expensive teas like sencha and bancha, so this gyokuro genmaicha green tea really stands out as a more premium tea drinking experience.
The second reason it is difficult to find organic gyokuro genmaicha green tea is that gyokuro is incredibly difficult to produce through organic growing methods. The shading process is a stressful time for the tea plant, as it struggles to maintain its strength without the sunlight.
Most farmers choose to apply chemicals to the plants in order to support the growth artificially, but organic farmers like Mr. Sakamoto use organic methods to grow strong healthy and flavorful tea plants without harming the natural ecosystem.
Why it’s important to go for organic gyokuro genmaicha
After visiting nearly a hundred tea fields around Japan, we have seen both organic and non-organic farming methods in action. We found that on the tea fields that are treated with high amounts of pesticides and chemicals, there is nothing able to grow other than tea plants. All there is to see are simply empty rows of tea bushes surrounded by hard black earth.
When we took a look at the pesticide free tea fields, we noticed a thriving ecosystem full of a diverse array of flora and fauna. Because the earthworms and other insects are able to move around throughout the soil, it loosens up and the roots of the tea plant are able to sink deeper into the ground and absorb more nutrients. This not only creates a healthy, more sustainable environment, but it also creates richer tasting teas.
We make sure to only work with farmers that grow their teas without the use of pesticides or chemicals. You can sip this tea with a clear conscious, knowing that it was produced using more sustainable and natural growing methods.