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Homemade Yuzu-cha-style Blood Orange Lemon Tea

February 12, 2015

Yuzu-cha style Blood Orange Lemon TeaPin it!

Cilantro and cheese always had a close rivalry, each vying for the position of my Most Missed Ingredient when I was living in Japan.

Now that I’m in California, the number one ingredient I miss from Japan is not really something I ever used in my cooking, but it’s a flavor that I love, and that I took for granted: yuzu (citron).

Blood Oranges and Lemons for homemade Yuzu-cha style citrus tea

Yuzu, or perhaps artificial yuzu flavoring, is everywhere in Japan: yuzu chuhai (shōchū cocktails), yuzu juice, yuzu candy, yuzu gum, yuzu ponzu sauce, yuzukoshō (chili paste), and yuzu sorbet. The best of all possible yuzu incarnations, though, is yuzu-cha (yuzu tea), which is probably even more commonplace in Korea — where it’s called yuja-cha — than it is in Japan.

Yuzu-cha style Blood Orange Lemon TeaPin it!

You can actually find yuzu tea sold in jars in most Asian markets, labeled 柚子茶 (yuzu-cha), 유자차 (yuja-cha), or “citron tea.” It might not fit your idea of a “tea” at first, though; it looks more like a jam, or a thick citrus marmalade of practically candied yuzu rinds, on the verge of dissolving completely into the honey they’re packed in.

Preserving Blood Oranges and Lemons in Honey for homemade Yuzu-cha style citrus teaPin it!

It’s not a jam at all though; it’s just a tea disguised as a jam: you scoop a dollop of the tea into a mug, pour over some hot water, and give it a stir. The honey-citrus mixture will dissolve into the water, leaving you with an aromatic, warming tea that strikes just the right balance of sweet fruit and honey paired with the slight bitterness of the edible disintegrating citrus rind. (You should always serve yuzu tea with a spoon, so you can scoop up and enjoy morsels of the candied rind in between sips.)

Yuzu-cha style Blood Orange Lemon TeaPin it!

I love that type of storebought yuzu tea — dissolvable into either hot or cold water — and always keep a jar in the fridge. It’s hands-down my favorite caffeine-free tea, and the only thing I want to drink whenever I’m feeling slightly under the weather.

Yuzu-cha style Blood Orange Lemon TeaPin it!

I don’t really have a strong yuzu-cha brand preference, and there’s never any selection of brands at the tiny Asian market in town, anyway; I just buy whatever they happen to have in stock. I’m sure some of them are made with only yuzu and honey, but Paula and I recently discovered that our latest jar lists a few extra ingredients: “Yuzu, sugar, fructose, honey, agar.”

Making Yuzu-cha style Blood Orange Lemon Tea

The agar is just like a vegan version of gelatin (made from seaweed/algae), which helps the tea firm up and look more like a marmalade, but we thought the sugar and fructose seemed unnecessary on top of the honey… so of course we set out to make our own!

Preserving Blood Oranges and Lemons in Honey for homemade Yuzu-cha style citrus teaPin it!

And that’s when I really started missing fresh yuzu. The farmers’ market here has an absurd variety of local citrus fruit, including lemons, Meyer lemons, Persian limes, key limes, grapefruits, tangerines, satsumas, clementines, blood oranges, Cara Cara oranges, kumquats, and limequats, but not a citron/yuzu in sight. (If you know where I can find fresh yuzu in California, or if you want to ship me some yuzu, then I will love you forever…)

Blood Oranges and Lemons for homemade Yuzu-cha style citrus tea

Luckily blood oranges and lemons seem to be an excellent — and more colorful — substitute. The combination of sugary oranges and tart lemons is similar to the acidity of yuzu, which falls somewhere in between, although it’s closer to lemons than oranges.

Yuzu-cha style Blood Orange Lemon TeaPin it!

We used only fruit and honey, no other types of sweeteners, and let the sliced citrus ferment in a mixture of honey and its own juices for about 24 hours at room temperature, before moving the jars to the fridge. After only a week in the fridge, the citrus rinds have already started to break down a little into the tea (which is a lot less thick and jam-like than the storebought version since it’s missing agar — although as it sits in the fridge, it should gradually get thicker as the natural pectin in the rinds is released).

Yuzu-cha style Blood Orange Lemon TeaPin it!

Since you’re going to be snacking on the rinds in between sips of tea, it’s important to buy only organic citrus (with peels that haven’t been waxed or sprayed), and to aim for fruit with peels as thin and smooth as possible. Yuzu peels are actually pretty thick, though, so of course plenty of white pith on the rinds is still acceptable: once it’s been preserved in the honey and fruit juice, even the acrid pith will taste a little juicy and sweet, though with a distinctly bitter edge to it.

Yuzu-cha style Blood Orange Lemon TeaPin it!

The blood orange tea comes close to yuzu tea, not just in sweetness, but also in complexity of flavor: the mixture of sweet honey, orange pulp, and juice, along with sour hints of lemon and the bitter preserved rinds, makes for a delicious cup of tea — and one that will only taste better if you have more patience than we did and let the citrus preserve in the fridge even longer.

Preserving Blood Oranges and Lemons in Honey for homemade Yuzu-cha style citrus teaYuzu-cha style Blood Orange Lemon Tea

You could probably speed up the process of having the peels release pectin by cooking the citrus rinds down in a little water first, but we never bothered with that, and ours still tastes just the way we wanted it to. (In fact, Paula just shouted to me from the other room: “you know we’re going to be making this every winter now, right?!”)

Yuzu-cha style Blood Orange Lemon TeaPin it!

Note: In addition to using only organic, washed citrus, you also want to make sure to use raw (and local!) pure honey, just warmed up enough to make it easier to pour over the fruit. In the photos, I heated the honey up directly on the stove using a little saucepan, but later I discovered that it’s even easier to warm it just enough if you heat up a little water in a saucepan on the stove and keep the honey in a glass measuring cup that’s set into the warm water — almost like a double boiler situation — as you stir the honey until it seems soft enough to pour and dissolve into the fruit juice.

Print this recipe. (PDF)


Homemade Yuzu-cha-style Blood Orange Lemon Tea
(Adapted from this recipe.)

(Makes 1 quart (2 pints), enough for about 20 cups of tea)

Active time: 15 minutes; Total time: 24 hours at room temp. + 1 week in the fridge.

~ 2 pounds organic citrus (about 5 blood oranges and 2 lemons), scrubbed clean
~ 1¼ cup pure raw honey

How to make it:

1. Slice the blood oranges and lemons as thinly as possible, and cut each round into fourths; remove and discard the seeds, but save all of the rind, pulp, and any juice that comes out while you’re slicing. (You can discard the top and bottom slices of each piece of fruit, which are basically all peel, but first squeeze the juice out of them into your bowl/jar.) Transfer the sliced fruit and juice into a clean 1-quart jar or two clean pint jars, or any airtight container where the fruit comes nearly up to the top.

Making Yuzu-cha style Blood Orange Lemon TeaMaking Yuzu-cha style Blood Orange Lemon Tea

2. Gently warm up the honey by placing it in a glass bowl or liquid measuring cup that’s set into a saucepan of water over low heat. Stir the honey as it heats, until it seems thinner and more easily pourable (you can add a tablespoon or two of water — or the citrus juice — to the honey to thin it out if you want).

3. Pour the honey over the sliced fruit and mix well to coat the fruit in honey and to get rid of any pockets of air. Make sure that the level of liquid (honey + fruit juice) in the jar is high enough to cover all of the sliced fruit — if it’s not, adjust by adding a little more juiced citrus, warm honey, or water.

Making Yuzu-cha style Blood Orange Lemon TeaBlood Oranges and Lemons preserved in honey for homemade Yuzu-cha style tea

4. Close and let jar(s) sit out at room temperature for about 24 hours (less if it’s very warm out; or more — about 36 hours — if it’s relatively cool in your house). Then transfer jars to the fridge. Your tea should be ready to drink after about a week, and should last at least 1-2 months in the fridge.

5. To make tea, place 1½ – 2 Tbsp. of the mixture (including citrus rinds + honey/juice liquid) into a mug, pour over hot water, stir, and enjoy.

Print this recipe! (PDF)

Yuzu-cha style Blood Orange Lemon TeaPin it!

Related recipe posts:

Raspberry Blood Orange Bars Blood Orange Tart Homemade Masala Chai with Whole Spices Mugi-cha/Pori-cha (Roasted Barley Tea)
Raspberry Blood Orange Bars Blood Orange Tart Homemade Masala Chai with Whole Spices Mugi-cha / Pori-cha (Roasted Barley Tea)
13 Comments leave one →
  1. February 12, 2015 1:13 pm

    What a beautiful lemon tea, blood orange seems to be THE ingredient!

    Choc Chip Uru

    • February 13, 2015 8:09 am

      Thanks, Uru! I know, Paula and I have really fallen for blood oranges the past few years. This year we’ve even been dehydrating slices of them to snack on; even with no added ingredients like that, they are so so good!

  2. February 12, 2015 2:01 pm

    Funny! I was just looking into getting a Yuzu tree! I ‘ve read that they are very cold hardy (down to 10f) Now I really want one! They are out of stock at the moment but here is where I found them…

    • February 13, 2015 8:15 am

      Wow, that’s good to know — and they are really affordable! The only reasons I haven’t looked into something like that are: I live in an apartment with no yard, I don’t have a green thumb, and there are pretty strict quarantines on bringing citrus plants in and out of Santa Barbara county because of the risk they carry Asian citrus psyllid, so I’d have to find some yuzu that were grown in this county in the first place.

  3. February 12, 2015 2:02 pm

    so this sounds absolutely magical: i had no idea this existed! I mean, okay: i knew what yuzu was, but a jam-like tea? amazing. Listen: we have a pretty decent international market, and i’ll keep an eye out for yuzu. do you get finger limes there (Australian)? because if so, i feel like a fruit exchange program may be in order.

    • February 13, 2015 8:23 am

      Shannon, a fruit exchange program sounds pretty magical, too! But no, I don’t think I’ve seen any finger limes at the farmers’ market. I wish, though! I’ll keep an eye out…

      At the very least, I’m sure that your international market should carry storebought yuzu tea in a jar — you should try some! (Or, you know, make your own…)

      But despite my plea for people to mail me yuzu, I’m not sure how legal that would be anyway, because of the citrus quarantine (that I just mentioned in the comment above). (Although there must be a ton of people who don’t know about or follow the quarantine rules — I only happened to learn of it one day when I was shopping for curry leaves!)

  4. February 16, 2015 6:57 am

    you got me fiending for yuzu now, too. blood orange tea does sound quite scrumptious, though. might have find myself an awesome farmers market and give it a go…

  5. February 20, 2015 6:44 am

    That sounds lovely, and looks just amazing. Definitely worth trying…

  6. April 6, 2015 9:03 pm

    Just in case someone is still looking – Four winds growers has one year old yuzu trees available now! (see link above)I just ordered one! I can’t wait!!

  7. Jasminn Dove permalink
    February 9, 2016 11:38 pm

    Hello! I found Yuzu tea in Chinatown in LA! :)

  8. Van Choe permalink
    April 20, 2016 8:15 am

    I had to look up what Yuzu was. Apparently it is the only citrus that will grow in the Pugent Sound area… Aka Seattle, where I live. I’ve never paid attention to it before because I’m more of a lime person. But I’ll have to keep an eye for it at our local farmers market and Pikes Place this year. Exciting!

  9. Dee permalink
    June 7, 2016 6:17 am

    I really love yuzu tea! There’s a sweet, fragrant and velvety aftertaste to it that’s really hard to replicate with other citrus fruits, I never even thought of trying to make it myself. There’s a soft drink from my country that tastes pretty similar and it’s made with grapefruits (it’s called ‘Ting’). In my area blood oranges and grapefruit are usually in season during the winter so maybe I’ll try this recipe out then.


  1. Yuzu Tree | Cast Iron Dan

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