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Preparing Gyokuro with Kumiko KOGA - October 2018


KUMIKO KOGA visited Comins in Bath in October 2018 - this is one of a series of blogs detailing some of the insights from her visit

About Kumiko Koga [pictured below]: Kumiko is the fourth generation of her family business established in Yame (Fukuoka) in 1938. Her mother is the current head of the company and Koga is next in line to take over. To have two women in these senior positions, even today, is rare in Kyushu and Japan which made Koga's visit even more exciting.


In this video Kumiko is preparing gyokuro, a high grade tea which is unique in that the bushes providing the leaves are shaded for twenty days before picking. This is done by forming a rice straw canopy above tthem. This creates about 80% shade and changes the way the leaves grow, ultimately creating more amino acids and therefore a richer umami flavour to the brewed tea.

When preparing gyokuro a smaller kyusu (teapot) is appropriate than other Japanese green teas. The other teaware required is a yuzamashi (water cooler) and small drinking bowls.

Kumiko uses around 7-10g of gyokuro leaf for brewing, a large amount for such a small pot. You'll notice that the water is first cooled in the yuzamashi first before being measured into the bowls. This cools it further and ensures exactly the correct amount of water is used. By the time it covers the leaf the water will be around 60 degrees celsius. An important point is how delicately and carefully the water is poured into the kyusu and that the teapot is not swirled or shaken - the leaf is very delicate.

For the purpose of the video the brewing time is sped up, it should be around 2 minutes for the first brew. The brewed tea is shared between the bowls bit by bit to ensure a equal balance of flavour. Every last drop of tea must be poured from the pot, indeed the last drop is said to hold the best flavour. Kumiko moves the kyusu up and down very deliberately to ease this out.

Gyokuro bowls are very small, therefore Gyokuro is best enjoyed by sipping slowly and savouring the flavour. Let the tea rest on your tongue and enjoy the delicious taste as it spreads through your whole mouth.  A second and third infusion are possible using water with a higher temperature and shortening the time of the infusion. Tea of superior quality like this one can be used for three or four infusions.

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