Cherry Blossom Tea


Don’t you wish cherry blossom season would last forever? Cherry trees bloom all too briefly in April or May for only a week or two. The delicate petals are easily taken down by wind and rain. But even in their decline, to be lying under a cherry tree showered by falling petals is pure slow-mo romance fantasy stuff.


When my friend Kathy brought me a gorgeous container of preserved cherry blossoms from Japan many years ago I was awed. The fragile pink blossoms are preserved in ume plum vinegar and a generous amount of salt. I used the blossoms with the salt still clinging to them in sushi, and to dress cold soft tofu (along with green onions, grated ginger, soy sauce and sesame oil). I must admit I didn’t know until very recently that they are actually meant to be used as a special tea called sakura-yu, which is served at Japanese weddings.

Preserved cherry blossoms are not easy to find in Toronto. Intermittently over the years I’ve checked in at Sanko, my favorite Japanese grocery store, and they never seem to carry them. Finally this spring my mother found some at J-Town.


To make cherry blossom tea, rinse the blossoms briefly in running water, or swish in a bowl of water to rid them of the salt. Some of the saltiness will remain and is part of the distinctive flavour of the tea. Put two or three blossoms in each cup, and pour boiling water over. The smell reminds me of my favorite ume shiso sushi and makes my mouth water. The taste is unlike any other tea – slightly salty and sour. The blossoms are like faint clouds or whispers of pink in your cup. You can also freeze the blossoms in ice cubes for use in fancy drinks.


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