Gyokuro tea, a Japanese grown green tea, brings a host of health benefits to the table. Gyokuro is a rare and premium green tea. It is a type of sencha green tea. Like most green teas, Gyokuro comes from the Camellia Sinesis plant, but what makes Gyokuro the most expensive green tea is its long and unique cultivation process and the delicacy of the plants.
What Makes Gyokuro Tea So Unique?
It boils down to the way the tea is grown, and in particular to the unique fact that Gyokuro green tea is a shade-grown green tea. This shading of the Gyokuro tea plants ensures that the natural antioxidant and anti-irritant properties, associated with the plants, are maximised to the utmost.
Three weeks prior to harvest in late April, the Gyokoru crop is covered with black mesh cloth or straw mats. This prevents direct sunlight touching the green leaves and slows the rate of photosynthesis. Slowed photosynthesis leads to an increase in the amino acid L-theanine and generates high caffeine levels in the leaves.
L-theanine gives all green teas their characteristic taste because it intensifies the umami taste. Umami, or monosodium glutamate, is one of the core five tastes and is the ‘essence of deliciousness’ in Japanese.
L-theanine is produced by the roots and sent to the leaves. When light hits the leaves, L-theanine is broken down to form Catechin, a polyphenol responsible for green tea’s astringency. This is where Gyokuro branches off from other green teas. In the case of Gyokuro, with its unique shading period, less photosynthesis means less L-theanine is converted into catechin.
So, the astringency of other green teas is diminished and the umami taste associated with L-Theanine is enhanced. The overall taste of this Japanese green tea is umami with hints of seaweed, grass, and a little sweetness. The shading for three weeks also gives Gyokuro tea its distinctive color.
The tea leaves become dark from the shading and create a tea that is a mossy green, hence it is called ‘jade dew’ or ‘jewel of dew’. The consistency is slightly thicker than other green teas. Blocking sunshine also produces dimethyl sulfite, creating the smell of seaweed found in Gyokuro.
After three weeks in the shade, only the youngest, most vital leaves from the top of the plant are handpicked. They are then steamed, hand-rolled and air dried. This allows the tea’s flavor components to be fully released. The unique harvesting process produces a sweeter, less astringent, tea with a higher concentration of nutrients.
Gyokuro tea is only harvested once per year. The tea can differ in flavor depending on where it was cultivated. Fukuoka is the main region that produces Gyokuro but it is also produced in the Uji, Yame and Asahina provinces of Japan.
9 Health Benefits
Like all green teas, Gyokuro has a mixture of natural compounds like flavonoids, pro-anthocyanidins and polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants can rid the body of environmental toxins, free radicals and metabolic by-products which can cause damage to cellular membranes.
Preventing damage to cell membranes is obviously good for the organs and if it’s good for the body it’s good for the mind.
1. Mental Alertness
Compared to other kinds of green tea, Gyokuro is higher in caffeine because it uses the highest quality tea leaves from the top of the plant. Due to the amino acid theanine, the caffeine in tea is gradually released throughout the day and acts as a healthier stimulant than caffeine in coffee. There’s less of a caffeine rush and more of a prolonged caffeine top up.
Gyokuro can cause better cognitive function because the caffeine increases mental alertness for longer. The combination of L-theanine and caffeine can also boost brain performance.
Besides boosting the functions of the brain, making you feel more mentally alert and sharpening memory, Gyokuro also promotes the health of your brain. It can help in preventing neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and so on, due to the catechin compound which is said to have a positive effect on neurons.
2. Healthy Heart
Gyokuro tea can boost heart health .
Like other green teas, gyokuro contains catechin , a bioflavonoid proven to aid in lowering the risk of blood clots, heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases. Gyokuro can also block the absorption of Low-Density Lipoprotein LDL cholesterol, or ‘bad cholesterol’.
Drinking unsweetened Gyokuro tea may help lower blood pressure, protect the body from toxins, and regulate blood sugar levels. Gyokuro green tea has increased polyphenols; polyphenols fight cholesterol and encourage its excretion from the body. All in all, circulation is improved. Fatty build up in the arteries, linked to heart disease, is discouraged.
3. Skin Health
The vitamin C in Gyokuro green tea works to lighten dark spots on the skin caused by scars and acne and can lighten dark spots caused by age. This has a rejuvenating effect on the appearance of the skin. It can also prevent wrinkles and improve elasticity, giving skin a more youthful appearance. The increased chlorophyll may also be anti-aging.
The high quantity of catechins, which are antioxidants, gives rise to anti-inflammatory properties and improves skin elasticity. Caffeine and theanine are the key components that help energise, soothe and protect cells from oxidisation and irritation.
4. Fat Burning
Gyokuro contains EGCG, an antioxidant, which can support the body in burning fat and calories through faster energy consumption. This tea can also help speed up your metabolism due to its thermogenic properties; helping shed excess flab.
Combined with exercise and a balanced diet, the body benefits from an increased rate of muscle building and an accelerated loss of body fat. Fluid retention is also reduced, which can boost weight loss.
5. Dental Health
Green tea has been found to lower the risk of oral cancer. Gyokuro contains polyphenols that help keep your mouth and teeth strong, preventing cavities and bad breath. The tea also contains fluoride and minerals, like magnesium and potassium, to prevent tooth decay and mouth infections.
The tea may also combat gum disease and gingivitis. With the highest levels of fluoride and tannins of all teas, Gyokuro tea has bactericidal properties. It doesn’t stain teeth.
6. Cancer Prevention
Gyokuro’s antioxidants can help prevent oral cancer. Furthermore, EGCG may reduce the risk of bladder, prostate, breast, ovary, and pancreatic cancer as well. The antioxidants act as a preventative measure. Gyokuro can reduce oxidative stress  and damage. It can fight free radicals to help prevent cancers, as seen in the study published in "Cancer Research" in 2006.
The polyphenols in Gyokuro tea help control the growth of cancer cells by reducing the levels of a protein known as cyclin D1. The tea also blocks the enzymes that help maintain cancer cells. The growth of cancer cells can be slowed.
7. Boosts Mood
Gyokuro tea may relieve anxiety due to the amino acids in the tea supporting inner vitality. This can help soothe and calm. The Samurai would drink Gyokuro tea before battle because of its nerve-calming theanine and invigorating caffeine. So, if it was good enough for the Samurai about to enter battle it will certainly soothe you in your daily grind.
Caffeine combined with L-theanine calms and maintains your level of concentration, whilst giving clarity and relieving anxiety to produce a general sense of well-being.
Gyokuro tea can stimulate the liver and work as a shield for the liver against toxic substances like alcohol that can cause hepatitis. It boosts the auto-immune system and this is invaluable in preventing unnecessary cell damage.
Gyokuro also helps combat diabetes by maintaining good blood glucose levels.
The fact that it boosts the metabolism and uplifts mood means people drinking Gyokuro tea regularly are likely to be more physically and mentally active. This can also combat unhealthy lifestyles associated with the development of Type 2 Diabetes. The antioxidants improve pancreatic health, helping maintain healthy levels of insulin secretion.
When you first begin drinking Gyokuro tea, you may experience insomnia or anxiety from the high caffeine levels, but this will level off as your body becomes accustomed to the tea. The high caffeine content can cause agitation, which means that it is not really appropriate for children or pregnant women.
When consumed in excess, Gyokuro tea can interact with other medications and can have gastrointestinal side effects.
A few cups of Gyokuro tea a day can have a very positive impact on health, as well as being a sublimely pleasant experience in itself. The delicate flavors, aroma and color of the tea are a delight but the after effects on body and mind make Gyokuro tea well worth the money.
If you decide you want to sample this tea by finding an online place in which to buy Gyokuro tea, look for images of the product, and ensure that you are getting an authentic Gyokuro tea. Look for information on where the company gets the tea from, which will usually be Japan.
Once you have your Gyokuro tea, sit back, sip and savor.