Spring is officially here with many green teas soon to line the shop shelves. As it is not very economical to drink top grade teas everyday, it is thus useful to consider going for the regular grade tea leaves. Gyokuro of course is one of the higher grade of tea in the Japanese green tea category. Prized for its umami taste, it is rarely possible to extract this taste when water temperature is too high. Because of this, I have also started to adapt my brewing techniques to optimise infusions for both regular grade chinese green teas and gyokuro at the same time.
I partially fill my preheated gaiwan with boiled water and gradually toss leaves into the gaiwan. The amount of tea added is just enough to form a dense layer on the water surface.
Once the tea leaves are sufficiently moistened (you should be able to see the leaves gradually opening up or pick up the brisk scent of green tea), proceed to fill up your gaiwan with hot water from the kettle. Replace the lid.
The slow and steady movements when preparing gongfu tea allow enough time in between steps for water to cool down. Keeping a thermometer and stopwatch at hand may seem more straightforward but don't seem very in line with the spirit of relaxation for me. By using my senses, I am in fact sharpening my gongfu cha skills and moving away from a reliance on an equipment-overload tea session.
Something that I noticed about Japanese green teas is the lesser emphasis on the luminosity and transparency of the infusion. You cannot avoid those spinachy green bits in your tea cups however narrow the gap is between the lid and gaiwan.