YOHEI Gyokuro: Tea Tasting by Alex Ahearn


Name of the Product: YOHEI(meaning snow in Japanese) shop here
Type of tea: Competition grade Gyokuro
Producer: Koga Yoshinobu, the ninth-generation president of Koga Seicha
Region: Yame City, Fukuoka Prefecture, northern Kyushu, Japan
Harvest: 2023

Read about Koga Seicha and Koga san below .

For over 200 years, Koga Seicha has been producing high-quality teas from Yame in Fukuoka Prefecture and continues to have a strong influence on the advancement of tea development and production practices.

Koga Yoshinobu (古賀善信) is a 5th Dan in National Tea Judging and focuses on producing high-quality teas and preserving the traditions of Kona Seicha while utilizing modern machinery as the tea industry continues to evolve and progress.

YOHEI - A rare and exclusive competition grade Gyokuro from Yame

Enjoy this tea like Yoshinobu Koga san! 

Koga san’s recommended steeping parameters :

60°C (140°F) water temperature
8g (2 teaspoons) tea
150ml (~5 fl oz) vessel
1-minute steep

A delicate fragrance with notes of sweet spring vegetables and white flowers and a subtle hint of fresh-cut grass as I cut open the sealed bag. The light vegetal characteristic of the tea is balanced with the subtle sharpness of the tea’s fresh white flower, gardenia-like characteristic. There was a slight nutty note, like lightly toasted almonds, underneath the more pronounced characteristics.

The water in my kettle started to warm up and reach the right temperature, and I prepared my table and laid out the teaware I liked to make this tea with. I placed a small kyusu, two small cups, and a tea towel in front of me. I poured a small amount of the warmed water into the kyusu and closed the lid, leaving it to warm. I decanted the water from the kyusu and weighed out the tea into a small bowl needed to make enough tea for two people. I slowly poured the tea into the warmed kyusu and closed the lid.

Notes of sweet spring vegetables and white flowers
© photo Alex Ahearn

While lifting the lid of the kyusu slightly ajar, I moved the kyusu closer to my nose and inhaled through my nose. A familiar aroma filled my nose with balanced vegetal and floral characteristics and a subtle grassy note. I took a few short breaths in and out of my nose and took in the aroma of the tea. The warm walls of the kyusu accentuated the sweetness of the lively vegetal characteristics of the tea.

Notes of dark leafy greens and fresh nori intertwine with hints of toasted slivered almonds and the fragrance of white spring flowers.
I poured the water into the kyusu and let the tea steep for one minute before I poured the tea evenly into the two cups, pouring from cup to cup until the last drop. The liquor was a pale, vibrant green with hints of pale gold. I lifted the cup to my lips and took a breath before taking a sip. The tea had a pronounced vegetal and umami character as it moved through my mouth.

There were layered notes of steamed edamame, heart of palm, and steamed endive that continued to develop as subtle grassy, nutty, and slightly floral notes lingered in my mouth. After swallowing the tea, the tea's umami characteristics lingered in the back of my mouth.

First brew, the typical pale green color of Gyokuro
© photo Alex Ahearn

I steeped the tea four more times to experience the complex and layered characteristics of the tea. For the second steep, I followed Koga san’s recommended steeping parameters of 60°C (140°F) water, 150ml (~5 fl oz) vessel, and a 1-minute steep. The liquor became a darker shade of green, and the layered vegetal and floral characteristics balanced nicely with the tea’s rich umami characteristics.

The umami characteristics were still present as the tea moved through my mouth, and the floral characteristics were slightly more pronounced in the liquor’s aroma. There was slightly more grassiness and bitterness, which balanced with the heavier body and the sweetness that lingered after swallowing the tea.

For the third and fourth steeps, I decreased the steeping time to 30 seconds and noticed lighter notes of fresh-cut grass and steamed vegetables. There was a subtle hint of white spring flowers in the liquor's aroma, and the tea’s floral characteristics were more delicate in the liquor's taste. The body of the tea lightened slightly in the fourth steep and kept the sweetness and underlying umami-rich characteristics from the first few steeps.

The grassy characteristics of the tea became less pronounced and more balanced with the vegetal characteristics in the fourth steep.

I increased the water temperature to 70°C (158°F) for the fifth steep to extract more out of the tea leaves and steeped them for 30 seconds. The fifth steep was the lightest of the steeps, both in body and liquor color, and had delicate floral and vegetal notes with hints of steamed edamame and spring flowers. Koga san’s recommended steeping parameters highlight the tea’s vegetal and umami characteristics, with delicate floral and nutty characteristics. This tea is made with the Yabukita cultivar.

The green color will become darker after each brew
© Photo Alex Ahearn

Make This Tea For Any Occasion!

Ice brew (kōridashi) preparation:

This tea can be enjoyed using another steeping method called kōridashi. An ice cube can be placed on top of the dry tea leaves, roughly 3-4 grams (1 teaspoon), in your cup and left to melt for about 30 minutes.

You may pour a very small amount (~10ml/0.33 fl. oz) of warmed water over the ice cube to start the melting process. The tea’s bitterness will be more subdued while its umami characteristics remain vibrant.

Food pairing recommendations 

You may enjoy this tea by itself or pair it with a wagashi or a piece of white or dark chocolate to see how the tea balances and contrasts with the sweetness and richness of the chocolate. If you would like to enjoy this tea with food, you may pair it with sashimi and other raw fish dishes or lightly steamed fish and vegetable dishes.


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