Friday, June 20, 2014

Cold Gyokuro, A Substitute to Cold Sencha


Cold tea at the office

I want cold tea when I work at my desk in this season. It can be a cold mugicha (barley tea) or sencha. The other day, I wanted cold sencha but I didn’t have any sencha on my shelf. What only I had was gyokuro. This situation tantalizes my curiosity about tea. Can you brew a “sencha-tic” cold tea out of gyokuro?


I tried making sencha-tic cold tea with gyokuro

Gyokuro has mild bitterness compared to sencha. If you brew tea with high-temperature water, you can extract bitterness. I put a heap teaspoon of gyokuro into a teapot and added boiling water. A few minutes later, I poured the hot tea into a glass filled with ice. It was very easy to make, and the taste was excellent. It was much better than I expected. It had good amount of bitterness like sencha and at the same time, it provides abundant pleasing sweet flavor of gyokuro’s umami. It was very refreshing.

Trial and error for three weeks

I loved the sencha-tic cold tea with gyokuro, but the bitter flavor exceeds my expectation a little. So, I made it every day to adjust and improve the recipe to my taste. I tried many different mixtures with boiling water, but it was difficult to make the tea without strong bitterness. What I got after three weeks of trial and error is the recipe as follows;
- Water: 125ml/75C (4.4oz/167F)
- Gyokuro: 5g
- Brewing: 1min
- Ice: full in a glass
You pour 125ml of boiling water into an extra cup to cool it down. You leave it as you add tea leaves in your teapot and ice cubes in your glass. Then, the temperature will get around 75C and pour it into the pot. You brew the tea for 1min and pour the hot tea into the glass with ice. That’s it.
This tea is not strong and it has the delightful umami flavor of gyokuro. You can enjoy the gentle sweetness with a hint of fresh green note. 

The second brew

Right after the first brew, I put some ice cubes and cold water directly into the teapot. I leave the pot in the refrigerator for one or two hours while I enjoy the first glass. The second brew is surprisingly delicious with mild bitter flavor. There are some benefits in brewing with iced water. First, it’s very easy to prepare. Slow extraction will be good for tea at work, and the next brew is ready about the time when I want it. From the hygiene perspective, you don’t have to worry leaving the pot with used tea leaves in a hot room on a summer day and using it a few hours later for the second. The most significant advantage is about its taste. Brewing in cold temperature doesn’t extract bitter flavor so the taste gets extremely mellow and sweet.

As I did a series of test, I realized the great potential of gyokuro and I started to think not only I could brew a sencha-tic tea but one with a mellow sweet taste as well.