There are literately thousands of tea types out there, from Assam to Z Tea, however with a little online searching, you can find almost all of those. One major exception is Sakurayu.
Pickled Cherry Blossom Tea
A tisane, Sakurayu or pickled cherry blossom is, exactly what you expect it to be. During Japan’s cherry blossom season the whole country goes crazy for the cherry blossom trees blooming almost over night. They schedule their whole year around it, having blossom parties, visiting their hometowns and importantly, making cherry blossom tea.
The tea is picked directly from the tree before it falls in the peak of the season, which lasts just 1 week. As a result, finding this tea out of season, even in Japan, is incredibly hard. We sourced ours from Tokyo Match Selection, who offer a fantastic selection of rare Japanese teas. If you’re looking for an expensive tea, pickled cherry blossom truly is it, with a single blossom costing roughly £3 or $6.
What is Sakurayu?
Once picked, the cherry blossoms are soaked in plum vinegar, before being flattened in hand presses. Following a few days of pickling, they’re sprinkled with salt.
Preferably drunk fresh, the blossoms open in the cup, a natural flowering tea. Unlike most of these tied teas, the cherry blossoms hold their form perfectly, sitting peacefully at the bottom of the cup.
I did my research before buying this tea, so the flavor was expected, however by looking at the pretty flower in the cup, you wouldn’t expect the strong salt flavor. In Japanese culture, the umami flavor is prized above all others, and the pickled cherry blossom is the height of this (hence the cost).
The initial flavor is a sharp salt, however once this dies away (quickly I may add), the delicate flavors of plum vinegar (very similar to plum wine) and cherry blossom really come forward. The salt does have its purpose though, as without it, the plum and cherry would be very sweet, meaning you couldn’t taste the whole palate.
A Daily Brew?
As a unique tea to try, Sakurayu were high on my list, and to be honest, I’m very glad I tried it; but I won’t be trying it again at home.
In the Japanese cherry blossom season, sweets and drinks are about, and all are over sweet, meaning the pickled cherry blossom would be a perfect break. Next time I intend to try it under the Japanese cherry blossoms themselves.