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.
Teas are particularly great when you can drink them anytime of day without having to worry about their buzz effect. Dattan Soba Tea is one of these versatile teas, a sip so full-flavored that you could easily mistake it as a regularly caffeinated tea. The brew is made from a tartary buckwheat, also known as bitter buckwheat. Don’t worry though, the brew doesn’t taste the least bit bitter. This tea is toasty and nutty, with a flavor profile similar to soba noodles since they are both made from the same ingredient.
I don’t even bother setting a timer when I brew this Soba Cha. Simply pour the hot water on and it’s a done deal. The tea is already packaged into tea filters, but I highly recommend you rip one open and try eating a few of the the toasted buckwheat bits both before and after brewing them. If you eat them before, they’ll taste something like mini Grapenuts (the cereal). Eat them post-brewing and they’ll taste something like boiled brown rice.
Tasting Notes for Ito En’s Dattan Soba Tea:
BREWING TIPS: Bring water to a full boil and let the tea steep for 5-8 minutes. The package says to brew the tea to just under the boil, but I don’t think it makes a big difference.
THE TEA: Golden, toasted buckwheat bits. To appreciate their full flavor, eat them straight up!
THE SCENT: Smells nutty and rich, like roasted peanuts or sesame seeds.
THE STEEP: Brews to a light greenish-yellow. Tastes of wheat cereal and freshly toasted nuts. Wholesome taste, similar to that of Barley Tea. Equally satisfying brewed hot or chilled.
GET IT: Online, at Amazon or in well-stocked Japanese or Korean markets.
FOOD PAIRING: This tea is very satisfying with sushi or maki rolls, especially with your evening meal. Also delicious with savory treats like Furikake Tofu Fries, Miso Chive Dumplings, or Shiitake Napa Dumplings. You can even enjoy the soba bits scattered over a salad like you would enjoy croutons.
Just last year my mother-in-law introduced me to green tea jello. This jello was much like the American version of gelatin that comes in a packet in powder form, where you simply add hot water to make it. Looking for a way to make that same tea jello dessert with better and fresher ingredients, I came up with this easy Green Tea Jello recipe. Topped with honeyed ripe fruits, these jellies makes a healthy, refreshing, and effortless spring or summer snack.
To make this Green Tea Jello you need just a few simple ingredients. As a base for the jello, I’m using my one of my favorite bottled Japanese green teas, but you could easily use a black, white, or even herbal tea instead. There is no water to boil or tea to steep, as I did say this recipe would be easy!
Other than the tea, there are two ingredients that will make this tea jello simply delicious. I’ve had this bottle of orange blossom water sitting in my pantry for the longest time. Since I bought it in the same section that you find rose water, I figured that it would have the same potency that rose water does, but after trying a dab I realized that it’s a completely different ingredient.
Orange blossom water is a by-product of the perfume distillation process. It’s often used in Middle Eastern cooking, and is sometimes used in making baklava. Where orange blossom water is soft and fragrant, it gives a light suggestion of beautiful floral notes instead of actually tasting flower-like like rose water does. It’s optional in this recipe, but if you haven’t tried it before I highly recommend it.
Another yummy ingredient I’ve used in my tea jello is some good-quality local honey. I received a jar of Bee Local Honey from my friend Yvonne over at Dress this Nest blog, when she sent me a care package as part of the 31 Days of Kindness Project. I can’t tell you how amazing this honey is! It’s so smooth and almost buttery in texture. For this recipe, try to forgo the run-of-the-mill honey bear at your grocery store and hit up your local farmer’s market for the good stuff.
I like to ladle the gelatin into teacups so that it’s obvious that this dessert is made from tea. Top the jello teacups with any variety of fruits that look colorful and are in season. After cutting the fruit, blot the pieces lightly with paper towel and then lightly drizzle them with a bit of honey to give them a nice glossy finish.
Green Tea Jello with Honeyed Fruits is an amazingly tasty and healthy refreshment or way to end a meal. It’s deliciousness lies in it’s wholesomeness and the addition of some unique quality ingredients. Give these a try and you’ll see how rewarding it is to transform tea into something you can actually eat!
Green Tea Jello with Honeyed Fruit
4 cups of bottled or canned green tea (I used Ito-En)
2 Tbsp unflavored gelatin
1/4-1/2 cup good-quality honey
2 tsp orange blossom water (optional)
fruits of your choice
extra honey, for coating fruit
medium microwave-safe mixing bowl
large mixing bowl
liquid measuring cup
6 teacups, for serving
1.) Place 2 cups of green tea in a medium size bowl and place in microwave on high for 3 minutes.
2.) Meanwhile, add 2 Tbsp of gelatin to the remaining 2 cups of cold green tea in a large mixing bowl. Stir the mixture and allow the gelatin to bloom.
3.) Carefully remove bowl of hot tea from microwave and stir in 1/4-1/2 cup of honey, depending on the sweetness, until it dissolves. Stir in the orange blossom water.
4.) Add hot tea mixture to cold tea mixture and stir until everything appears evenly dissolved. Ladle liquid gelatin into teacups and set in fridge to chill for 3-4 hours until fully set.
5.) Dice the fruit into 1/2″ pieces, then blot dry with some paper towels. Drizzle and toss the fruit with the reserved honey to create a glossy look, then spoon atop the set jello and serve!