The Okabe district in Fujieda City, Shizuoka is known as one of three major Gyokuro production regions of Japan, along with Uji of Kyoto, and Yame of Fukuoka. Gyokuro is a very unique green tea, known for its deep umami component, with a dashi-like taste: somewhat similar to liquid vegetable/chicken stock, but tea flavored stock instead.
The way of growing and processing this particular Gyokuro tea from Okabe is quite different from that of normal green tea plantations. Around three weeks prior to harvesting the leaves, the tea plants get covered with an opaque black sheet (traditionally, they would use straw made from the rice fields called komo). This is to shield the plants from the strong sunshine, resulting in the new leaves growing soft with a deep green color due to chemical congestion.
Now, if that description has piqued your curiosity, then look no further. The COMO tea shop at Yabusaki-en tea farm, here in the heart of the Okabe district, offers an experience like no other: premium Gyokuro tasting, coupled with an educational lecture about the history, production and culture of the selected teas!
In the Okabe district, there are four old grand-masters of Gyokuro, and after the lecture, you can choose one of their teas for tasting. Now, here's a little trick, if you come with friends, each of you can choose a different master’s tea, and line them up side-by-side for comparison. If you have never tried Gyokuro, then you might be in for a surprise. The taste has a very rich and deep flavor, not reminiscent of tea at all.
This particular tea shop also has a rather unique offering, being a made-to-order premium Gyokuro that sells for ¥20,000, around US$200! Definitely one for the tea connoisseurs. Only writing about the taste won't do it justice, so you'll just have to try it yourselves.
If you happen to be visiting during late spring or summer, the master of Yabusaki-en also gives tours of the Gyokuro tea farm, so you can see first hand how they prepare the tea plants for Gyokuro processing.
It's about a fifteen-minute drive or taxi ride from Yaizu station, on the JR Tokaido Line.
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