Tasting Three Kinds of Gyokuro

I recently had my first experience with Gyokuro. So naturally, the next step is to do a comparison tasting. I have three different Gyokuros on hand, so I decided to try all three in a horizontal tasting session. Those teas are: Gyokuro Hoshino from Path of Cha, Gyokuro ChaMusume from Nio Teas, and Gyokuro from Harney and Sons.

I used the brewing parameters listed on the Path of Cha pouch. 4 grams per 100 ml, 140 F water for the first infusion for two minutes. Then 165 F water for 30 seconds for each subsequent infusion.

1st Infusion

For the first infusion, the Path of Cha had a real brightness to it. It was also quite thick and had a strong vegetal note to it. It was pleasant.

The Nio had a very pronounced vegetal taste, like a cooked vegetable. The smell reminded me of a Chinese restaurant but I can’t pin down which vegetable it tasted like. It had another note of almost sour or bitterness to it that I didn’t love.

The Harney also had a cooked vegetable taste, but it wasn’t overpowering. This tea also had a nice sweet finish. The Harney tea was also the thickest of the three.

2nd Infusion

On the second infusion, the Path of Cha was thinner in texture but had a more sweet taste and just a slight vegetal note on the back end.

Nio was much sweeter this time around but still had that slight sour bitter taste as well, but it wasn’t always there. I noticed it more if I kept the tea in my mouth as opposed to just swallowing right away, which I have not noticed with a tea before. Interesting.

Harney was slightly vegetal with more sweetness to it as well. It was very good.

3rd Infusion

On the third infusion, the Path of Cha was sweet. That’s all I wrote on my notes. Sweeter. This was once again a very pleasurable session with this tea.

The Nio was mostly sweet with slight vegetal notes, but the sour taste was now gone and it was really good.

The Harney was very sweet and was still noticeable thicker than the other two. Also very good.

I have noticed a pattern with Japanese green teas. They start out with a strong vegetal and bright note, but turn sweet as the infusions go on. I am finding that I like the later infusions the best. I do like a good bright bracing tea now and again, but in general I prefer the sweet taste. Just an observation I made.

Now for the prices: Path of Cha is $14 for 25 grams, $2 per session. $.50 per cup at 4 infusions. Nio is $32 for 100 grams, at 3.5 g per session that is 28 sessions in a bag. That’s $1.14 per session, at 4 infusions that’s $.28 per cup. Harney is $65 for 112 grams (4oz.) That’s 32 sessions per tin, which is $2.03 per session. At 4 infusions, that is $.51 per cup.

So the Path of Cha and Harney are about the same price, but they are both 78% more expensive than the Nio. Based on my experience, I think both the Path of Cha and Harney are worth that price.

If I had to pick a winner, it would be Path of Cha. But I am intrigued by that Harney and Sons and I would like to do a proper session with it in my kyusu by itself. The Harney leaves were noticeably more whole and a darker green color than the other two. It felt like higher quality. It’s worth experimenting to see what I can get out of them. Stay tuned.

So what’s the difference between these teas? The Path of Cha is grown in Hoshinomura, Fukuoka prefecture. Nio is from Kagoshima, the southern part of the main island. The Harney is from Uji.

Another experiment with Japanese tea, and I am realizing you would have to devote your life to the study of Japanese tea to become any kind of expert in it. There are so many varieties of each kind of tea (sencha, gyokuro) that you don’t really see in China. It’s all very interesting and I plan to keep on learning and sharing what I learn as I go. Cheers.

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