Friday, April 11, 2008

Yame Gyokuro Vil. Hoshino Shincha 2007

Tea: Yame Gyokuro Vil. Hoshino Shincha - 6510
Vendor: Lupicia USA
Price: $ 28.00 / 50g
Source: Fukuoka, Japan
Vendor Description: A top grade first-picked Gyoukro tea from Yame, Fukuoka with a robust flavor and deep sweetness.

About this tea: While I was arranging my teas getting ready for the shincha flush which I am eagerly awaiting, I ran across this tea. I had picked it up earlier in the year, but had forgotten that I had picked it up. Once I found it I knew that I had to open it up and try it for two reasons. The first being that the Yame Gyokuro Vil. Hoshino was a very delicious gyokuro and this one should only be better. The other being that it is a gyokuro shincha, which on the surface seems like there would be nothing odd about that statement. The more I talked to people about this though, it makes people wonder if that is really a misnomer or not. Shincha directly translates into "new tea", but typically is used to refer to the very special portion of the first pick for a sencha. Another point of question is that gyokuro is sometimes aged, sometimes it is not. If it were aged is it still a shincha when it is pulled out of storage? The tea is made from the first picking still, but it is not available until well after the sencha shincha comes around. There are differences in the processing of a shincha though that a regular tea does not undergo, the sorting is not as precise and it is not stored.

Leaf: With that said the leaf for this tea was a bit unusual. The gyokuro needles were not as uniform and long as I had seen with the non-shincha Yame Gyokuro Vil. Hoshino. There were also smaller lighter green tipped pieces, which turned out to be stems. The amount of stems in this tea were more than I am used to seeing in a gyokuro. Most gyokuro that I see is all uniform in color and has the stems removed. There are varieties of gyokuro which have stems intentionally mixed in, but I did not think this was one of them. The stems in this are probably a difference in the processing for a shincha.

1st Infusion: This tea had a beautiful light green hue to it. It was very clear and had an almost neon luminescence to it. Even the first sip fills the mouth with an abundance of rich gyokuro flavor. It is smooth and sweet, with no sense of astringency or bitterness. The flavor rapidly reaches a plateau where it holds for a moment and then tapers off leaving you with a distinctly gyokuro aftertaste. It is quite stunningly good, even if it was almost a year old from harvest.

2nd Infusion: The second infusion lacked the same clear color of the 1st infusion, this one was a bit cloudier. The flavor was stronger than the first, but not as sweet. The strong rich green gyokuro flavor was very full bodied and rich, and more flavorful.

3rd Infusion: This was a lighter flavored infusion, but it was still rich in flavor. There was still no bitterness or astringency.

4th Infusion: This was just as flavorful and delicious as the previous infusions, but it was apparent that the tea was starting to taper off.

Rating: 10/10

Conclusion: Regardless of the age of this gyokuro and it's dubious nature as being a shincha, or if a shincha could exist for a gyokuro, it was all around delicious. I definitely enjoyed this tea and am awaiting to see what the 2008 version holds.


M. Higashi said...

I can explain a little bit.
Shincha is the first flush tea of the season, and Gyokuro has to be made from it, mostly hand picked.

Shincha is processed (steamed and deactivated the oxidation enzyme) within 4 hours after picked. Some Gyokuros from Uji in Kyoto are aged, but Gyokuros from Yame region are never.

For keeping the freshness, tea processors pack the tea with nitrogen (MAP-Modified Atmosphere Packaging), and deeply freeze it in -25 Celsius below.
They defrost it, then do the final processing on lot by lot.

So basically, you can regard all the Gyokuros from Yame, Fukuoka as Shincha.

Salsero said...

Could you give some idea of your brewing parameters with this tea. I have been working with my first gyokuro, Den's Gykuro Kin and have not been totally satisfied with my results. Since it's a little lower priced than the best stuff, maybe the problem is the tea, but I don't want to practice on the premo stuff.

m. higashi--
Thanks for the additional comments ... very helpful.

M. Higashi said...


Here is the basic Gyokuro brewing instruction with English / French subtitle.
Take care of the water temperature and amount.

Salsero said...

Thanks for the linky, m. higashi. I'm heating water now to try out some of those video instructions. It would have been helpful if the video was more precise about how much water to use with 10 grams of gyo. Otherwise, they are beautifully done instructions, and that lady's voice is hypnotic! Since I don't understand Japanese she is like the music in the background of the captions.

Your approach to this particular session is still of interest...