Nearly all of the highest grade Gyokuro and Matcha is grown in the Uji region of Japan. It is said that the Gyokuro grown specifically in the Inooka area of Uji is exceptionally excellent, so it is truly the finest quality Gyokuro available in Japan or anywhere in the world.
Inooka is a very small hill only about 0.5 mile (800m) in radius carved by the meandering waters of the Kizu river. The part of this hill which has been scraped away by the Kizu river has soil which is exceptionally rich in mineral clay. It is said this rich clay strongly affects the characteristic deep taste of Gyokuro grown in Inooka because nutrients filter through the clay differently than through sandy soil.
Effort to Grow
Tea leaves for Gyokuro are carefully grown under diffused sunlight for twenty days before harvesting, creating Teanin, which gives the tea a wonderfully sweet taste. Although generally Japanese tea is able to be harvested two to four times throughout the year, tea leaves for Gyokuro are harvested only once. It imposes a heavy burden on the tea trees to defuse the sunlight before harvesting. This is the reason why tea leaves for Gyokuro are harvested only once every year.
Tea trees for Gyokuro are fertilized three times as much as other kinds of tea, such as Sencha, in order to create the deep sweet taste which Gyokuro is known for and to protect the tea tree from the burden of defused sunlight before harvesting. The higher grades of Gyokuro which are hand-picked are given even more nutrients.
Tea leaves for the highest grade Gyokuro are picked only by skilled hands – not by machine. Picking by hand rather than by machine ensures that the leaves are accurately sorted. Though it is a slow process, hand-picking produces a tea of the highest quality. (For more information, click here.)
Breed of Tea Tree
Only a few breeds: Gokoh, Samidori, and Komakage are suitable for Gyokuro. It is very difficult for any other breeds to produce the deep sweet taste of Gyokuro. These rare breeds: Gokoh, Samidori, and Komakage are grown mainly in the Uji region.
To grow the finest-quality Gyokuro takes not only time and effort but also tea trees passed down from prior generations, geographically ideal soil conditions, and technical succession – it must be by the very grace of God that we can all enjoy excellent Gyokuro of this quality!