Citron Tea – A Winter Warmer

I first discovered Yuzu (Citrus aurantium), when my brother brought me a jar of yuzu marmalade from Japan. Known as yuzu in Japanese and yuja in Korean, this round Asian citrus has a distinctive flavor that is somewhere between lemon and orange.

Yuzu marmalade is a mixture of the sliced fruit (peel and all) and a sweetner (honey and/or sugar). As far as I know, it is not intended for spreading on toast (serious citrus fans, however, might give it a try.); the marmalade’s primary use seems to be for tea. Indeed, the jar I bought at a Korean market in Oakland says “Citron Honey Tea” on the label, and is called “Yuja cha” in Korean (lit.: citron tea).

To make a cup of yuzu tea, spoon a few teaspoons of the marmalade into a mug or heat-resistant glass, then pour hot water over the fruit. Stir to distribute the flavor and sweetness through the water. On the cold nights and mornings of winter, I’ll be drinking this tea a lot. It is especially nice when I have a sore throat or a cold.

Yuzu marmalade can be a ingredient in cocktails. An easy one is the “yu-gin cocktail”: put a few ice cubes in a cocktail shaker, add a few ounces of good gin (my favorite is Plymouth) and a tablespoon of yuzu marmalade, put on the cover, and shake for 10 or 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Vodka would be an easy alternative. For a traditional Korean approach, you could use soju—the clear and mostly flavorless alcohol of the Korean countryside—as the alcohol base. The alcohol content is about one-half that of vodka or gin.

The tea aisle of a Korean, Japanese or Chinese market sometimes has other interesting “teas”, like jujube (a.k.a., Chinese date) or fresh ginger in jars, or dried persimmon leaves in bags. I imagine that they are purported to each have their own health benefits, but I don’t know what they are.

Jars of yuzu marmalade can be found in Asian grocery stores, especially those with Japanese and Korean specialities. The 1 liter jar containing 1 kg of marmalade pictured above was about $8.

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  1. Hello! I found your site through Sam of Becks & Posh.

    An old friend of mine made Yuzu marmalade from fruits grown here and I nearly fell over from the taste and scent of it! Georgous!! When they are in season you can find the fruits at Berkeley Bowl.

  2. Shuna,
    Thanks for clicking over. Last week at Berkeley Bowl I saw the Buddha’s Hand citron (Citrus medica var. sarcodactylus) for something like $4 per piece. But Buddha’s Hand is not the same species as yuzu (Citrus aurantium). Has Berkeley Bowl also had fresh yuzu?

  3. Hands-down the best brand I’ve found–so far, that is–is Han ChaKan (product of Korean… pkg’d for Welluck Co. in Jersey City, NJ). Besides having the best flavor, it’s a lot thinner in body… so it mixes really well in both hot water or alcoholic bevvies!

    Here’s a recipe I’ve been trying out:

    1.00-oz Vodka (Bison grass)
    1.00-oz Gin (New Amsterdam, Gordon’s)
    0.75-oz Zen green tea liqueur
    3.00-barspoons Citron Honey Concentrate

    STIR ingredients until well blended. Add Ice. Serve w/ a spoon for stirring–and savoring the gooey-bits!

    Be careful how much Zen you use, as it can sometimes interact poorly with gin and become quite bitter. For similar reasons, you should also avoid adding lime juice to this drink or even using Tanqueray Rangpur–bad idea!

    So my next question is: Why is no one is making Rose-infused vodka? Imagine a Arabian-style coffee-tini! (No, rosewater just doesn’t quite work.)

  4. YUZU is actually grapefruit as we call it in Australia. And it coresponds to what the Chinese call it YUZI.

  5. Was looking up Citron Tea and this blog came up. I just wanted to add that you can add citron tea to freshly sliced lemons and store them. We do this when we buy too many lemons and we don't want them to go bad. It works surprisingly well.

  6. Most recent Anonymous — I'm not sure what the jar says (don't have any on hand right now), but I always store mine in the refrigerator.

  7. Hi~ I found your blog through an internet search for the tea. Thanks for giving me the idea to drink this during winter – it's my second winter in Korea and I hate being cold! It was also nice to read up on the recipes.

  8. According to what I've seen about citrus tea on Japanese television shows–YES, it is supposed to be refrigerated and YES, it can be eaten like regular marmalade.

    It isn't difficult to make your own. Scrub some citron/yuzu until it is very clean. Slice the fruit very thinly, and then cut the slices in bite size pieces. Cook it with sugar/honey until a clear jelly forms (about 15 minutes), and can like you would regular preserves. I don't have my recipe handy, but any standard orange marmalade recipe's portions would work, except you don't want to use as much sugar as most of them do. You also definitely want to use honey for 1/3-1/2 of the sweetener.

    For Americans who don't have access to yuzu/citron, a combination of 2 small oranges (or one large) to 1.5 lemons will usually do the trick. Adjust based on how 'tart' you like your preserves.

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