Citron tea is something I’ve started to make at home once it begins to get cold outside in December. Drinking a glass right before bed helps me relax. Naturally packed with vitamin C, citron tea is a time-tested cold and flu remedy in Korea and Japan. Soothe your soul and a sore throat!
What is Citron Tea?
If you’re into watching Korean dramas on Netflix, you may have noticed this drink.
It originates in Korea, where it’s called yuja cha. The traditional Korean tea is also popular in Japan.
I’m used to hearing the drink’s name in Japanese, yuzu cha.
If you speak Korean or Japanese, you know that the word cha in yuya cha (유자차) or yuzu cha (柚子茶) means tea.
Like herbal teas, yuzu tea doesn’t contain any tea leaves.
Store-bought Yuja/Yuzu Tea
In Japan, it’s typical to buy jars of imported yuzu cha from Korea.
You’ll find it on the shelf at most supermarkets here.
The jars you buy contain a marmalade called yuja-cheong in Korean.
At home, you make citron tea by simply mixing the juja marmalade into hot water.
You can easily find a jar of it to try online. Note that the options available may be pricey, depending on where you live.
I like making my own healthier version with 100% local honey, no added white sugar, and no crappy additives.
It’s so simple to make it yourself.
Though, I’m beginning to wonder if I was a Korean grandmother in a previous life.
What is Yuzu, the Fruit?
Yuzu is a citrus fruit that originally comes from central China. Nowadays, you’ll primarily find it grown in Korea, Japan, and China.
It’s possible to find the fruit outside of East Asia, though it will take some luck finding fresh yuzu to use-u.
At first glance, it looks like a knobbly-skinned, homely-looking lemon.
But looks can be deceiving.
Don’t be fooled– its beauty is on the inside. Its fragrance is like no other.
The first time you breathe in the perfume of fresh yuzu, you will easily get over your past heartbreaks and fall head-over-peels in love.
The taste is tart like grapefruit but with sweeter overtones of mandarin orange.
Helen Rossner in The New Yorker described yuzu as “more floral than an orange and nearly as tart as a lime, with a scent that is dense and disarming, the Froot-Loops-y honey of a lemon blossom wrapped around an astringent armature of industrial floor cleaner (which is somehow exquisite), then magnified tenfold, then mailed to the moon.”
Similar to a lemon, it’s not eaten as a fruit in Japan. It’s commonly used as a zest or seasoning in Japanese cuisine and condiments.
Why is Yuzu banned in the US?
According to the New York Times, the importation of fresh yuzu was banned to protect American growers from diseases prevalent in Asian groves. But yuzu is grown and sold domestically.
In the same Times article, it says that the trees were introduced in California before 1888, grown in home gardens by Japanese-American aficionados.
About 30 years ago, enterprising farmers started growing yuzu, some perhaps illicitly, to fulfill a demand from chefs.
Disclaimer (Read this first!)
I want to warn you that this yuzu drink is so tasty!
In South Korea, they say once you try yuja cha,
you’ll get addicted.
Please note that this blog is for informational purposes only. I cannot accept any liability whatsoever.
If you do get caught drinking this delicious drink, please share your mug shot on Instagram and tag @eyesandhour and hashtag it #eyesandhour.
How to Make Citron Tea from Scratch
Once I realized just how easy it is to make my own yuzu cha from scratch, I stopped buying it and made my own.
Essentially, all it takes is learning a few tips for cutting the yuzu and knowing how to sterilize a glass jar.
Once you squeeze the juice out and thinly slice the leftover peels,
there really isn’t much more to do.
Even removing the seeds is optional.
The thinly sliced peel, the juice, and flesh of the fruit gets mixed with honey.
Then, screw on the lid, let it sit for a day, and put it in the fridge.
In three or four days, you’ll have fresh, homemade yuzu marmalade.
Mix 2-3 spoonfuls with hot water and rejuvenate with a cup of yuzu tea!
Where can you buy Yuzu?
Right now, it’s December in Japan.
I went to the U.N. farmers market in Tokyo yesterday and again today. Many sellers had yuzu for sale.
The typical price was $1.50 per yuzu. I bought a bag of less than perfect organic yuzu for about $2.
It’s much easier to find fresh yuzu when it’s in season, late Autumn to early winter.
In the US– California has the greatest number of farmers growing yuzu. Yuzu is popular with chefs in the US. I read that Michelin Star chef, Thomas Keller, is a fan of yuzu.
If you need help finding yuzu in your area, let me know.
If you’re outside of California, your best bet would be a Korean or Japanese specialty grocery store or asking the chefs at higher-end Japanese restaurants.
If you live outside a major city like New York, your options are probably limited to buying expensive yuzu online or trying an alternative.
And if you decide to plant your own yuzu tree in your backyard, don’t expect fruit for the first ten years.
That will teach you patience.
In Australia– There are only a few yuzu growers. In this article, there are specific farms and places where you can buy yuzu listed.
According to the article, the season ranges from a few weeks to a few months, somewhere between February to July. It will also depend on where the grower is in Australia.
I also read online that people living in the UK and New Zealand were able to find fresh yuzu as well.
What can replace Yuzu?
It’s likely you live somewhere where yuzu aren’t available.
If you are lucky enough to find some at a farmer’s market or Japanese or Korean supermarket, it’s likely that they’re extremely expensive.
Here are your options as I see it:
Option 1: Sell your house and move to Japan or South Korea.
Option 2: Buy bottled yuzu marmalade online, which is still good. It’s just not as healthy as this homemade recipe.
Option 3: Try replicating this recipe with other citrus fruit.
The best alternative seems to be Meyer’s lemons, though you could try out lemons too.