The first tea was labelled "gyokuro with stems" from Itohkyuemon. I paid 1575 JPY for 100g. I chose this tea because there was a guy preparing samples for people. Even though he knew very little English he did his hardest to answer my questions and did not hesitate to prepare a separate sample of the more expensive stuff for me. Some shops were not serving samples at all.
This tea is amazing. Hands down the best gyokuro I've had. Although I have had more "green" gyokuro, there is an extra tinge of flavor I have not tasted in other gyokuros. It is not as creamy as other gyokuros. I am guessing it is the stems that are adding this extra flavor and cutting the cream a bit. I have no idea if the stems are a sign of higher or lower quality but I definitely like them. They had a similar tea without stems and it was significantly cheaper. The tea's flavor does not change significantly with subsequent steeps. It just keeps slowly dying out. A few previous gyokuros I've had have a very sharp decline in "green-ness" after the first infusion. Perhaps this is a non traditional gyokuro but it is definitely my favorite to date.
The second tea is from a shop I have no idea what it is called since everything was Japanese and the lady spoke very little English. However after she saw me looking and smelling the various teas she immediately prepared a few cups of different teas and kept saying "Try! Try!". I found this pic of the place through Google maps:
I am a sucker for anything that looks old and traditional and this shop has that in spades. They had a HUGE variety of all kinds of teas. The gyokuro I bought from them was probably the "tourist" one and I paid around 4000 JPY for 100grams.
This gyokuro is much more "green" than the previous one. Although creamy it is not quite as much as I'd like. However the green-ness lives on through multiple steeps. I found this one to be a bit more finicky than the previous one. A had to be more careful with temperature to avoid bitterness. However even when it got a little bitter, the overall taste was still very green. I've had a few gyokuros that taste very "brown" or burnt if you don't make them just right. I regret not studying Japanese to see what else this shop had in it. Also I cold brewed a batch of this one and it was awesome. I think it's too pricy considering other options available in the vicinity.
I did a tea tasting at the Obubu tea cafe in Kyoto and it was fantastic. Note that it is not a "traditional" ceremony at all given that the cafe in a huge department store food court. However huge Japanese department store food courts are something to be experienced in an of themselves. It is a modern cafe where someone makes various teas for you. The two people working were awesome and sat and chatted for close to two hours about tea and other things all while going through different teas. I also had tea in Ginza at the Ippodo store and that is a much more upscale tea cafe. The tea was very good but very expensive.
For reference here are some other similar teas I have tried:
- http://www.adagio.com/green/gyokuro.html Adagio's Gyokuro
- http://www.teavana.com/the-teas/green-t ... -green-tea Teavana's Gyokuro
- http://www.mellowmonk.com/buyGreenTea.htm#shaded_leaf Mellow Monk's Kabusecha
- http://www.o-cha.com/green-tea/uji-gyokuro-yume.html Uji Gyokuro Yume no Ukihashi
- http://www.obubutea.com/ Obubu's Kabusecha
- http://shop.ippodo-tea.co.jp/kyoto/shop ... gcd=403011 Ippodo's Kanro Gyokuro