100 Drinks from Japan: Pickled Sakura Tea / sakuracha / 桜茶
In Japan Sakura tea is a popular drink for celebrations such as weddings or other special occasions. It is made with sakura cherry blossoms pickled in salt – a very traditional Japanese ingredient. In Japanese Sakura tea is called “sakura cha – 桜茶” or “sakura yu – 桜湯”.
Pickled Sakura Flowers
As fresh cherry blossoms can be harvested only once a year, Japanese started pickling them in salt and ume plum vinegar in order to be able to enjoy the Sakura flavor throughout the whole year. Many households with garden and cherry trees used to make their own pickled sakura. Nowadays most people will rather buy pickled sakura flowers from one of the few companies who still make this a product.
How to prepare Sakura Tea
There are two ways to prepare sakura tea.
Take one or two flowers for each cup of tea and remove as much salt of the flower as you like before using them. Pour hot water over it and you get a light colored tea. It has a light scent of sakura flowers and an intense flavor of cherry blossoms. Although edible the flowers remaining in the tea usually are not eaten.
If you want to further remove tea, it is better to first soak the blossoms for 5 minutes in warm water. You then put one or two flowers in a tea cup and pour hot water on it. Adjust the flavor and saltiness by adding some of the salty water with a spoon.
A common variation is to add a flower or two to green tea when pouring hot water over the leaves. The result is a naturally flavored green tea.
The flavor of Sakura Tea
Sakura tea has a very authentic taste of Japan with a subtle flowery scent and flavor. When the tea flows over the palate the first sensation is the saltiness, which might be a bit unusual for Western people. Then the beautiful flowery fragrance opens up in the mouth. The very unique flavor of sakura is unforgettable (e.g. unique like rose flavor). A nice subtle aftertaste of sakura remains on the palate for a few minutes.
Sakura tea is not only a must for the cherry blossom season but a wonderful drink for a moment of peace and pleasure.