No one would ever think that the picturesque and serene Mount Fuji is still an active volcano. And none might even hazard a guess that the sacred mountain would also be the base for a time-honoured Japanese tradition of tea-making that gives way to TWG Tea's Hon Gyokuro.
The suffix "gyokuro" is a kind of shaded green tea. The prefix "hon" denotes the work of a master artisan. Gyokuro is cultivated through laborious means. That's where the tea isn't grown under the full glare of the sun but rather under the shade.
They are matured under a careful arrangement of handcrafted straw mats known as 'Komo'. Over 25 days, these tea leaves draw in the nutrients of precious minerals that are nurtured by rain showers and dewy mornings. The slow growth of Hon Gyokuro is further nurtured by gentle breezes and sunlight filtering through the woven mat.
After harvesting, the freshly picked tea leaves are promptly processed on the same day. Stored in a wooden box known as Cha-Bako, the leaves rest and mature until autumn, enhancing their exquisite flavours. You get seaweed-green leaves that are rich in chlorophyll. With a flavour profile that hints of honeysuckle and that ends in a velvety finish with a touch of ooika—a thick, heady note that ignites the senses. This is a tea of brilliant sweetness and concentrated flavour.
This ancestral Gyokuro technique is practised by only a handful of tea plantations in Japan. There, where Mount Fuji sits, the altitude and terroir add to the Gyokuro harvests. The two renowned tea estates which TWG Tea sources from are managed by a single tea planter. In the case of Master's Gyokuro, the plantation's lone producer and craftsman of Hon Gyokuro is the last in the line of tea planters. He harvests the leaves by hand once a year in the spring. Only a mere five-kilogramme yield is passed onto TWG Tea. Needless to say, for the sort of exceptional quality, the Hon Gyokuro is highly limited.
TWG Tea's Imperial Gyokuro (SGD264 per pot / SGD1,271.50 per 50g) and Master's Gyokuro (SGD61.50 per pot / SGD258 per 50g) are more than just a cup of tea; it is an experience. Where contemplation over a comforting brew brings to the fore the appreciation of long-cherished heritage and craftsmanship.