Tea of the Week: Sakura Blossom Tea

Japan is brimming with cherry blossoms this time of year. Just this past week, my great friend Danielle from This Picture Book Life got a glimpse of the blooming beauties, up close and personal, on her visit to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Tokyo. Me, jealous? You got that right!Every spring, Japan’s meteorological agency tracks the blooming of cherry blossoms across Japan. This geographical mapping helps for people to plan for hanami, otherwise known as picnicking under cherry blossom trees…sounds splendid, doesn’t it? My only hope (at least for this year) is to sit back with a cup of sakura tea in my living room…because darn it, if I can’t enjoy springtime in Japan then at least springtime in Japan can come to me!Brewing sakura tea or sakura-yu is an exquisite experience. The pickled blossoms unravel into delicate, feathery, tutu-like blooms upon being hit with hot water. The diaphanous petals give way to a salty, floral sip that’s certainly not your everyday herbal brew. If you’ve ever had sakura tea before and found it too salty, do what my tea blogger friend Nicole from Tea for Me Please suggests and keep a spoon and bowl of the saltier first steep (used to rinse the blossoms) around. You’ll be able to easily adjust the strength of the tea to your liking.

Tasting Notes for Sakura Cherry Blossom Tea:

BREWING TIPS:  Have 2 teacups ready. In one cup, steep 1 large or 2 smaller blossoms in 160 degrees F water for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, use a spoon to transfer the steeped blossoms to a new cup. Leave the cup containing the first steep aside. Fill the second cup with hot water, then enjoy this tea. Spoon more of the stronger, saltier first steep into the second steep to your taste preference.
THE TEA:  Expect the blossoms to be hot pink or bright mauve in appearance, with brown stems. They’ll be completely covered in salt, so it’s a good idea to shake some of the excess salt off before steeping.
THE SCENT:  Preserved in tons of salt and plum vinegar, the blossoms smell sweet and pungent as you would expect from something that’s been pickled.
THE STEEP:  A faint, pinkish-yellow brew that’s lightly floral and slightly salty. Subtle on the palette and best enjoyed hot to bring out the mild flavors. Expect the blossoms to lighten in color as they steep.
GET IT:  At well-stocked Japanese markets or on Amazon.com.
FOOD PAIRING:  I love to enjoy sakura tea with traditional red bean based Asian treats like steamed buns or mochi. The mild saltiness of the brew is a nice contrast to the sweet, heavier taste of adzuki bean. For a savory change, enjoy these with decorative Matcha Sushi Balls. The blossoms can also be used to decorate and cook with as long as you give them a quick rinse to remove the excess salt and then dry them with paper towels. If you end up eating the blossoms their sour flavor will be that much more pronounced.

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Tina Meyers-molnar

did you ever get my request to use two of your tea photos? for a Gold Peak Tea advertorial? we can of course pay you

Bonnie Eng

Oh my goodness, how fun!! In seltzer water and served over cream cheese and crackers! I will have to try those variations. Awesome link, Buri-chan! 😉

For The Love of Ghee

Salty and Floral. Sounds like something that would please my palette. I look forward to trying it. I’ll try Amazon, is there a particular brand you would recommend?


Wow what a beautiful tea! and interesting that the Japanese salt the flowers instead of drying them. Japanese cuisine definitely has some of the most unique flavor combinations 🙂


I can’t believe I have yet to try brewing sakura tea at home! It is so pretty, though. And I’m glad you mentioned the garden in Shinjuku–we were just talking about going for a picnic at a garden tomorrow and that might be the one! 🙂


I have been to the Japanese tea house in Vienna and they offered this sakura tea but I am still unsure about trying it since the saltiness sounds weird but the tea and your set up is as pretty as always 🙂


I have found that for me the best method is to do a small 2-3 ounce steeping with one or two flowers in hot water (around 140 degrees) for maybe 30 seconds to a minute, to get most of the salt off, and set this aside… then use near boiling water for the actual steep that I’ll drink (6-8 oz) and let it sit until the water is cool enough to drink. Then, I add back in a bit of the salty “brine” of the first infusion to give it some more flavor and about a teaspoon of sugar, which really balances the flavor and brings out the taste of the sakura. I mean it! I almost never put sugar in tea, but this really does the trick with sakurayu, so I recommend trying this, even for “I don’t take sugar in my tea” snobs!

On a side note, Obubu tea company did an experimental batch of sakurayu a couple years ago using sugar instead of salt to preserve the flowers (this lowers the shelf-life to about 2 months instead of two years) and they were great! Tasted just about the same as the method I’ve been doing, but without any of the salt. I think I do prefer the salted ones though. Gives it a unique flavor.