Few teas reach the level of rarity as Japan’s Gyokuro (玉露 “pearl dew”), which makes up less than 1% of all tea produced within the country. It’s rarity, however, is bolstered by its price; it also earns its name by being one of the most expensive teas in the world. Three regions currently produce gyokuro: Joyoshi, Okabe (Shizuoka), and Yame (Kyushu).
Gyokuro is derived from the yabukita tea leaf only when the leaf buds are at their youngest, right at the beginning of the spring harvest. It’s processing is both involved and intensive, but as it is revered as one of Japan’s best green teas, its preparation is well-worth the labour. After picking, the leaves are to be lightly steamed in order to prevent oxidation. After performing an initial roll on the result and air-drying the leaves, they are rolled again in order to produce the raw tea known as aracha. The finest grades of aracha are then selected to become gyokuro, and are rolled and dried a large number of times in order to produce gyokuro’s needle-like shape. At the end of this extensive process, it is given at least a week to mature.