In the midst of March, we're struck by the cruel dichotomy of awakening spring light and the burial of the brutal chills of winter. During this time, the rising sun tickles early buds but crisp sheets of ice linger in the periphery of the landscape and stern winter gusts remind us that we have a ways to go before the vernal equinox. It's not quite winter, but not yet spring, and this limbo of transitional seasons consistently leaves us restless and dissatisfied.
Yet all of our seasonal unrest is instantly, effortlessly, and frankly deliciously settled by a warm cup of yuja-cha or honey citron tea. Available in most Asian markets, this Korean treat arrives packaged as luminous jars of golden marmalade "created by curing [citrus] into a sweet, thick, pulpy syrup" (1). When mixed with hot water, the glistening sticky jelly dissolves into a foolproof citrus tea. Yuja-cha is not technically a tea in that it contains no dried Camellia sinensis leaves; rather, it is an herbal beverage made from gently submerging and steeping citrus paste in hot water until it alchemizes and emerges as a sunrise of flavor.
Our favorite yuja-cha features a bountiful bouquet of floral honey and tangy citrus—typically a yuzu or citron—that introduces us to spring with the whispered scent of blossoms humming in the familiar warmth we come to cherish in winter. The tinge and subtle bitterness of the partial rinds scattered within the marmalade balance the bee gathered nectar to create a sweet tea that isn't in any way overpowering. And the presentation of these flavors as a thick, syrupy marmalade provides the opportunity for a perfectly personalized cup. Some tea connoisseurs prefer a densely concentrated orchard of citrus produced with a generous serving of jelly, while others favor subtly and add a modest teaspoon to their cups. Some are purists and find the simplicity and balance of traditional yuja-cha superior while contemporary and curious consumers experiment with playful yuja-chas made with luscious quince or pears or those scented with spicy ginger.
Here at ARCANISA, we're typically purists as it's hard to challenge the time honored pairing of citrus and honey. Plus, there is an undeniably nostalgic, medicinal characteristic that arrives with the combination of citrus and honey. Perfect for soothing sore throats and easing the discomfort of colds, a warm cup of yuja-cha can work magic on those ensnared in the battle with common colds by serving as a dose of necessary vitamin C and antibacterial honey or just as a comforting mug of brew.
And the versatility doesn't end there. Try adding some yuja-cha to ice water for a cool summer refreshment, or use it in place of traditional marmalades on toast, atop yogurt, and in any recipes that can be elevated by a hint of sweet citrus. But now, as we wait for the official arrival of spring, we believe yuja-cha is best experienced and enjoyed as a steamy cup of tea.
In closing, we invite you to watch this fantastic video, demonstrating the elegance of yuja-cha preparation to the whimsical narration of a song dedicated to this delightful drink. Embrace this brief but magnificently dynamic season of transition, nestled quietly between winter and spring, by indulging in a warm cup of tea that foretells the bounties of eager spring.