by jennifer on August 30th, 2013
Canton Tea Club Week 48: Sakura Blossom
This week, Tea Clubbers are getting a deep insight into Japanese culture. The cherry blossoms of the Japanese sakura tree are viewed with huge affection and reverence in Japan. The sakura blossom members received is pickled in salt and plum vinegar. It can be simply rinsed, steeped and enjoyed as a tisane, sweetened in a latte – or used in cooking. Co-Founder and CEO of Matcha Latte Media, Ian Chun, introduces the sakura blossom and its significance in Japanese culture.
“A lovely spring night
while viewing the cherry blossoms
So wrote the famed Japanese poet Matsuo Basho in the 17th century.
The image of sakura (the Japanese cherry blossom) is perhaps the most beloved image and symbol in Japan–one that is glorious in its spring innocence, and simultaneously poignantly beautiful in its transience.
For just two short weeks in the spring, these blossoms paint the landscape of Japan with clouds of light pink, before raining down in a shower of petals. During this season, Japanese flock to parks to view the cherry blossoms, picnicking under the flowers as they drift into their tea cups (as well as sake cups of course!).
The blossoms coincide with the start of the Japanese school year as well as the start of the Japanese fiscal year for most companies. The sakura is a symbol of beginnings that reminds you everything is in continual change; it reminds you to treasure those beautiful but fleeting moments in life.
And Japan, as a country and culture in love with food, has found a way to incorporate sakura into its beautiful cuisines. By salt-pickling these blossoms, Japanese chefs have preserved this once transient beauty allowing you to revive the blossom in your tea cup.
The sakura flavour produced by your tea is also one that is used in a wide variety of recipes in Japan, from sweet sakura lattes to sakura chiffon cakes to sakura-flavored rice dishes.
Here is Ian’s recipe for sweet sakura latte:
3-4 Sakura blossoms
Sugar as desired (brown sugar is recommended)
Place the sakura blossoms in a cup, and pour hot water. Let soak for 1 minute. Save this water to adjust flavor.
Remove the blossoms and place them in a second cup, let soak in hot water (half the cup) for 30 minutes.
Remove the blossoms, add sugar as desired, then reheat to dissolve the sugar. Remember, this will become the syrup that flavors your hot milk, so be generous.
Add hot milk to your concoction for a delicious sakura latte. If the sakura flavor itself is not strong enough, use the original water to adjust. The sweet & salty combination is heavenly!
Notes: I have seen recipes that chop up the blossoms then filter the pieces out. This may create a more concentrated flavor.
Cooking with sakura
If you’re thinking that the blossoms look good enough to eat, you’re right, they are. It is simple, but produces a wonderful effect, to add the salty, fragrant blossoms to classic Japanese Ongiri – rice balls – which in Japan are commonly taken to work for lunch. All you need is rice, water, and soaked sakura blossoms. Add the flowers as the rice steams, and then roll the rice into balls with a cherry blossom pressed into each.