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Jul 13, 2006 10:05 PM

Gyokuro and matcha?

I read through this thread:

The majority of the posters recommended sites for sencha, but I was wondering if anyone could recommend distributers of good gyokuro and matcha.

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  1. PseudoNerd -- I am a green tea fanatic, and now (having been introduced to Red Blossom Tea in San Francisco) I love jade oolongs. However, I did go through a phase of searching for the best gyokuro that I could find; at the time, gyokuro was the only green tea I really liked.

    I see that you are a Los Angeles Hound. If you ever get to Sawtelle, as you are facing Hide Sushi on the same side of the street, to the left and just across the parking lot driveway is a Japanese grocery store. He carries an excellent gyokuro. It is in a tall, 1 lb. silver can, about 8" tall, and called GYOKUROMATSU, packed by Mikawaya Shoten. There is a large yellow circle on the label, and the rest of the label is gray. This is the best I have found, and the price is amazing for the quality: I think the can is about $17.

    One problem: the market goes through periods when they carry many cans, and then they don't have it at all for a long time. I haven't checked lately (I still have a couple of cans left -- I have gone through at least 8 pounds of this! -- it is THAT good!).

    There are many gyokuro teas "out there," but truly this is the best I have found...let me know what you think or if you find anything better for the price; it can be the costliest of the green teas. Also, if you will check my recent GREEN TEA post, many knowledgeable hounds suggested some great places to order online. Most of these specialty online stores have gyokuro.

    12 Replies
      1. re: MacGuffin

        You are AMAZING, found this post.
        Six years later, I still enjoy this GyokuroMatsu...and you taught me to chill it in the fridge overnight for a special treat!

        However, this Japanese grocery store on Sawtelle is now gone.

        MacGuffin, I have you to thank for introducing me to Hibiki-an in Japan. They carry wonderful Japanese green teas.

        1. re: liu

          I was laughing because of our obsessive online searching for the definition of "matsu" while we spoke on the phone--we really are a pair, aren't we? I searched again and what came up? Your post here!

          1. re: MacGuffin

            As the eternal student that you are, MacGuffin, you persisted in your search of the meaning of "matsu" and came up with the meaning of "matsu" as a qualifier, in this case referring to the grade of gyokuro. Apparently, this GyokuroMatsu that I have been enjoying over these many years is a very high grade tea.

            Does anyone else know this GyokuroMatsu tea or know the meaning of "matsu" as it refers to tea?

            1. re: liu

              Well, Gyokuro (玉露) is the grade of tea, and the suffix "matsu" (抹)means "powder" in this case. You are probably familiar with the term for powdered tea "matcha" (抹茶)so this will make perfect sense. Hope this helps...

              1. re: Tripeler

                Thanks, Tripeler, for this information. However, the GyokuroMatsu that I have is not powdered and it is surely not matcha.

                Might there be another reason for the "Matsu" modifier on this Gyokuro tea?

                1. re: liu

                  It would really help if I could read the character for "matsu" because I could tell you more exactly what it means. I am guessing the character I suggested. However, that character also means "rubbed" so maybe it is finely ground, but not powdered. What is the texture of the actual tea you have?

                  1. re: Tripeler

                    Liu and I are pretty sure that it means "pine" and in this case refers to pine needle-like leaves, i.e., their appearance (maybe due to rubbing?). That would make sense as I recall that matsutake mushrooms (it's that time of year again!) have something to do with pine trees. I think what liu wants to know is whether or not "matsu" is an industry-wide designation, especially since we both buy a lot (God help us) of tea and really had to scramble to find any mention of it online in connection with gyokuro. I'm also going to respectfully suggest that gyokuro is a type, rather than a grade, of green tea given that it's grown differently and has a number of grades of its own. Also (for those reading this who might not know), not all powdered green tea is matcha.

                    1. re: MacGuffin

                      Is this the one?

                      Sounds like it is, so it's 抹, as Tripeler guessed.

                      1. re: DeppityDawg

                        Liu would know; I have no familiarity with this tea. But that's undoubtedly the same character. :)

                        1. re: DeppityDawg

                          Yes, DeppityDawg...that's it! Tell me more!

                          Over the years I have purchased at least 10 one-pound cannisters of this GyokuroMatsu tea. There is a sushi bar in a Japanese area of Los Angeles that serves very good green tea...better than at most sushi bars. Years ago they directed me to a Japanese market next door to purchase this tea, the same as they serve in their sushi bar.

                          The market has recently closed, so my easy source for this tea is gone. While I do not want to purchase any more, I would love to know more about this tea that I have been enjoying for so many years.

        2. The original comment has been removed
          1. ....has very high quality....

            1. PsuedoNerd: Go to Yamamotoyama in Mitsuwa Japanese market in Torrance, CA. They have gyokuro tea for $30, $45, and $70. I buy the $45 one because the manager told me the health benefits don't differ between the $45 and the $70. You can also have a gyokuro tea service with a sweet snack (a sweet bean cake) for $7 plus tax.

              2 Replies
              1. re: amatzat


                They have a lot of really good tea there.

                1. re: amatzat

                  The first Gyokuro I tried was from a grower from Kyoto. It was quite amazing. The first infusion was sweet and vegetal-definately the "theanine" coming through. In fact, good gyokuros seem to be almost instantly calming-more so then sencha in general. The fifth infusion was still grassy and had some flavor and a nose remaining. After the fifth infusion, he put the leaves into a bowl and we ate it with ponzu sauce made with the Japanese citrus fruit yuzu. The leaves tasted like spinach.

                  Since then, very high grade teas from Hibiki-An are enjoyable in that same way. I was able to eat their higher grade gyokuro leaves. I have not had as many wonderful gyokuros from other sources-Hibiki-An is excellent. I think eating the leaves at the end might impart greater health benefits then simply brewing. I read that only about 20% of the ECGC and the tea catechins comes through when you brew it, so it stands to reason that eating it would impart more benefits, though I haven't found any science that confirms that. There is evidence that ingesting the entire leave-as in matcha-gives far more benefits than brewing-so I take it on faith that eating the gyokuro at the end does the same thing.

                  There is an array of pricing on gyokuro, and it's hard to know which is worth it. I think there's a level at which additional price is not justified. There are gyokuros for 15,000 yen per 90 grams, or about $2,000 per kilogram. Freshness is extremely important-gyokuro will degrade in a few weeks when opened.

                2. The original comment has been removed