Korean honey citron tea is something I’ve started to make at home once it begins to get cold outside in December. Similar to my favorite decaffeinated herbal tea, drinking a glass before bedtime 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!Jump to Recipe
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.
What does yuzu taste like?
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.”
How is yuzu used?
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 with fresh citron from the farmer's market.
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 spoonful 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 United States– 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.
Let me know if you need help finding yuzu in your area.
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.
Those of you who 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 lemon, though you could try out regular lemons too.
Homemade Citron Tea (Yuzu / Yuja Cha)
- 5-6 yuzu fruit medium size
To Make Citron Tea
- hot water
- Wash whole yuzu thoroughly with water.
- Scrub yuzu peels with course salt.(optional)
- Remove any brown spots or scars in the peels with a knife.
- Slice yuzu into quarters, vertically, from stem to bottom tip.
- Trim off the pith.*
- Squeeze out juice and pulp into a small bowl. Set aside.
- Remove seeds with a knife or spoon.(optional)
- Remove stem ends with a knife.
- With peels facing down on a cutting board, slice peels julienne-style. Set aside.
- Remove pulp from the bowl and squeeze out the juice with your hands.
- Blend pulp in a blender or chop into small pieces with a knife. Set aside.
Combining the Ingredients
- Using chopsticks or a fork, add slices of yuzu to a sterilized jar to make one layer of yuzu peels.*
- Cover the layer of yuzu peel with honey.
- Repeat steps 1 and 2 until you've added all of the yuzu peel to the jar.
- Add all the yuzu juice and chopped pulp to the jar.
- Stir with a spoon.
- Tightly seal lid on the jar.
- Leave the jar out in a cool, dry place for one day.
- After a day, open the jar and mix with a spoon.
- Reseal the jar with the lid and keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
Making citron tea
- Add one tablespoon of yuzu/honey mixture to hot water or black tea.
- Stir and serve warm.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF CITRON TEA
In Japan and Korea, yuzu cha is marketed as a cold and flu remedy. Yuzu, a citrus fruit, is high in vitamin C.
The warm drink with honey is soothing for a sore throat or cough.
Yuzu is also a common essential oil– the smell of the rind is calming. Take a sniff while trying out this recipe–
feel your stress peel away.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF YUZU
Relieve inflammation– Yuzu fruit is high in antioxidants.
Limonene, a compound that is concentrated in the yuzu peel, may help reduce inflammation and prevent the formation of free radicals. This is why you should eat the peel.*
Other parts of the yuzu fruit may also contain powerful antioxidants. Knowing this, I would use as much of the fruit as possible when making homemade yuzu. Even the seeds!
The only part I that I recommend you remove is the pith, which tastes bitter, and the stem.
*I recommend using organically grown yuzu, if available.
Boosts your immune system– Yuzu is high in both vitamin C and antioxidants.
Other potential health benefits–
- Yuzu’s fragrance has been shown to be mood-boosting and stress-reducing.
- It may also inhibit blood clotting to protect you from heart attacks and strokes.
- Reduce inflammation, which may help reduce the risk of chronic disease.
- Protect brain health and potentially prevent cognitive decline or neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF HONEY
Sleep better– I remember some people in Tim Ferriss’s book, Tools of Titans, rave about honey helping them fall sleep at night. Honey can promote relaxation and help ease you to sleep at night.
Drinking a cup of citron tea before bed may actually help you get a better night’s sleep!
Get allergy relief– Taking a high-quality raw local honey for two months before allergy season can actually lessen your allergies.
Consuming honey daily before allergy season can help your body grow accustomed to the pollen and immunize your body against it. (Source: Dr. Oz)
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1) Is citron tea the same as yuzu?
Yes, citron tea is the exact same thing as yuzu cha, or yuzu tea.
Yuzu is the Japanese name of the citrus fruit. Citron is the English name for yuzu. Yuja is the Korean name for the same fruit.
English = citron
Japanese = yuzu
Korean = yuja
2) What does citron tea taste like?
If you can imagine drinking honey, lemon tea with the peel, the taste would be very close to that. But you'll notice that the taste isn't quite lemon. It will definitely make you curious and say "I've never tasted anything like this before. What is it?"
Citron fruit itself tastes like a mix of lemon, grapefruit, and mandarin orange. Compared to other citrus flavors like grapefruit, lemon, or lime, citron (yuzu) has a somewhat of milder sour taste. It's more delicate, even more so when combined with the honey.
I find the fragrance so warming and citrusy sweet. It's one of my favorite smells.
3) Is yuzu tea Korean?
Yes, it's originally Korean, not Japanese. Yuzu tea is just the Japanese name. In Korean, it's called yuja tea.
4) Is yuja tea the same as yuzu tea?
Yes, yuja tea is made from fresh yuja fruit. Yuzu tea is made from fresh yuzu. Essentially, the only difference is the different languages: Korean vs. Japanese.
I've read that Korean grown yuja has thicker skin and stronger fragrance. I'll have to wait for my next trip to Korea to confirm that it's true.
5) What is citron tea good for?
It's most well known as a natural remedy for soothing a sore throat or a cough. I also find it's calming to drink before bed after a busy day at work.
There are other alleged health benefits such as relief from a common cold, helps your immune system fight illness, or an aid in digestion.
I say, it's just good to drink and enjoy, especially to warm up in the winter. A hot cup of citron tea is wonderful – I don't need more reason that that!
6) How do you use citron tea?
The citron marmalade is usually mixed with a cup of hot water, stirred, and enjoyed as a warm drink. I've never tried it, but you could also mix it with cold water and ice cubes for a sweet refreshing drink in the summer. The citron marmalade used to make the tea can also be used as a fruit topping for ice cream, yogurt, or shaved ice. Even use it as an exotic cocktail ingredient. Yum!
7) Does citron tea have caffeine?
No, since there are no actual tea leaves in citron "tea", it's 100% caffeine free.
8) Is citron tea good for colds?
Because citron contains high amounts of vitamin C, there may be some benefits for your immune system when you're fighting off a cold. So far, I haven't found any scientific studies that back this up.
In Korea and Japan, it's been known for being a cold remedy similar to chicken noodle soup in the U.S..
9) Is citron tea good for coughs?
The honey in citron tea may help sooth your cough. According to Mayo Clinic, in one study in the study, honey appeared to be as effective as a common cough suppressant.
10) Can honey citron tea help you lose weight?
This citron tea recipe is made with honey. Honey is natural sugar, which your body will store as fat. Sugar is sugar. So no, I wouldn't recommend this as a drink to lose weight. Regular citron tea tends to contain quite a bit of sugar.
Please consult your doctor or nutritionist. I'm not an expert.
Unsweetened matcha or green tea might be a better option for weight loss.
If you have any more questions, please let me know in the comments section below.