Tea of the Week: Lupicia’s Sakura Matcha Au Lait

There’s something about being in the midst of winter that makes me yearn for sunnier days and brighter steeps. As a food blogger with modest camera knowledge, I’m at the sun’s mercy everyday. A clear, bright day after a host of overcast ones not only brings my craft back to life but also helps to keep the winter blues at bay. Lupicia’s Sakura Matcha Au Lait is a foreshadowing of lovely spring days to come. Sweet and savory with a kick of caffeine, it adds a lively pop of freshness to any dreary day. From the name of this tea, you might expect it to taste like bowl of fresh cherries. I hate to break it to you, but it’s simply not going to taste like that. This tea tastes distinctively of cherry blossoms (sakura)not cherries. In Japan, cherry blossoms are often pickled in salt after flowering in the spring, which is what gives this blend its pleasantly salty and mildly floral taste. For those longing to take a trip to Springtime Japan though their taste buds, this matcha will take you there.
Tasting Notes for Lupicia’s Sakura Matcha au Lait:

BREWING TIPS:  In a large microwave safe bowl or chawan, mix 2 heaping teaspoons of the mix with 8 fluid ounces of milk (I like soy milk or almond milk). Mix thoroughly with a whisk or chasen, then microwave on high for 1 minute. Carefully remove from the microwave, then mix again to create frothy bubbles just before serving.

THE BLEND:  Sugar, powdered green tea, powdered cherry leaf and cherry petal, and aluminum potassium sulfate.

THE SCENT:  Softly grassy. Very subtle on the floral notes.

THE STEEP:  Mildly salty and lightly sweet with a vanilla-like essence. Slightly bitter and earthy as is characteristic of matcha. Brews to a creamy, vibrant leaf green.

GET IT:  Online, at Lupicia or at Lupicia stores in California or Hawaii.

FOOD PAIRING:  This would be yummy with savory or sweet snacks as it borders on the flavor profiles of both. Furikake Tofu Fries, Neapolitan Mochi Cake (for V-Day!), or Smoked Salmon Spring Rolls would all complement this tea’s complex flavor.

Lupicia Hawaii’s Hua Ki Tea

After posting a piece on Lupica Hawaii yesterday, I thought I’d share with you a bit more about the Hua Ki tea blend that I was raving about.  It’s so hot and dry in Los Angeles this week it might as well be summer, in which case this would be a delicious and satisfying blend to enjoy. This is one of two Lupicia Original Hawaiian tea blends that’s actually available through their website, simply because it is their most popular blend.  If you prefer to order this in a gift package (they are really colorful and beautiful!) then just call their store in Honolulu directly.

Tasting Notes:

BREWING TIPS:  2 1/2-3 minutes @ 212 degrees F.

THE LEAF:  Black twisty tea leaves with small chunks of dried mango, papaya, pineapple, and cranberries thrown in.  Tiny purple blossoms called Blue Mallow and large cut strawberry leaves are also scattered throughout.

THE SCENT:   When you open a tin or bag of this tea the scent of the most ripe, sweet tropical fruits come bursting out of the container.  Each tin of tea has a vacuum packed sealed bag of the tea for locking in freshness.  After cutting open the bag and transferring the tea into the tin itself, I often keep the empty bag around for sniffing because I think of Hawaii every time I get a whiff.

THE STEEP:  A medium brownish amber, typical of a black tea blend.  Although it’s a black tea, you wouldn’t want to add milk into this flavored tea.  It’s best served cold over ice, unsweetened or just lightly sweetened so that you can taste all those tropical fruit flavors coming through.  The brew is medium-bodied and heavier on the mango and pineapple flavors.  It’s warm, slightly sweet, and has a buttery finish.

GET IT:  lupiciausa.com  

Lupicia in Honolulu

If you are a tea lover and find yourself in Honolulu, you simply must drop by Lupicia in the Ala Moana Mall.  Lupicia actually has a few locations in California, but only one store in Hawaii, on the island Oahu.  The store in Hawaii isn’t like the ones on the mainland.  Many of the teas you find in Lupicia Hawaii are unique and exclusive to the Honolulu based store, and definitely shouldn’t be missed!

The Hawaii location recently underwent a renovation that transformed the little shop situated in the basement level of the mall into a glorious and vibrant tea boutique.  Although it simply goes by Lupicia Fresh Tea, I use the term boutique because shopping there is like shopping at a department store for tea.  The selection, quality, and packaging of the teas is really impressive.

What sets this tea store apart from others is the way the teas are organized and showcased. There are easily hundreds of tea blends available at Lupicia.  The non-flavored teas are sold in tins or sealed bags, while their specialty or seasonal teas come pre-packaged.

For most of their teas, Lupicia Hawaii lists not only the name and description, but also the plantation and country and where the tea was grown.  This is ideal for the tea drinker who takes a holistic and qualitative approach to enjoying their teas.

Opening a tin of Lupicia Hawaii Original Blend Teas is like taking a walk through one of Hawaii’s lushest botanical gardens.  The smell and taste of tropical flavors like hibiscus, guava, papaya, and pineapple are distinctively warm and relaxing.  Since these island blends are only available at the Hawaii location, you can actually call the store in Honolulu directly to order the teas!

Their most popular Hawaiian blend is Hua Ki, a fragrant black tea infused with mango, papaya, and pineapple flavors.  Hua Ki is perfect served as an iced tea in the heat of summer when you need a drink to chill out and start planning your next trip to Hawaii.  I buy this blend everytime I go back to visit.

Other than tea, Lupicia also carries some very beautiful tea wares, both modern and traditional.  These chic Japanese coolers can be used to brew both hot and cold teas.

Of course, my favorite is the matcha section, complete with all the tea ceremony accoutrements for making your matcha experience both beautiful and unforgettable.  Heavy stoneware matcha bowls (chawan), matcha whisks (chasen), and matcha spoons (chasyaku) are available in many different shapes and sizes.

If you are looking for a unique and lovely Mother’s Day gift, you should check out Lupicia’s La Belle Epoque Book of Tea.  It includes 30 of Lupicia’s tea samples and 2 petite tins of their Kyoto and La Belle Epoque seasonal teas.  This pretty package is based on Okakura Kazuko’s classic, The Book of Tea, originally written in 1906.  In it, Okakura shares his thoughts on the serene and simple art of taking tea.  This elegant box of assorted teas would be treasured by any avid tea-drinker!

And if you’re interested in seeing Lupicia’s flagship store in Jiyugaoka, Japan, please check out my friend Lisa Kunizaki’s blog on the Chambre de Sucre site.  If you visit, you’ll also catch a glimpse of the store’s lovely afternoon tea spot and their unique collection of teapots.  With teas a delicious as the ones found in Hawaii, it’s hard to imagine that the store in Japan could get any better.  Hopefully I’ll get the chance to visit the Jiyugaoka store for myself someday soon…in the meantime I’ll be quite content with a tall, cool glass of my favorite Hua Ki tea!

Lupicia Hawaii
1450 Ala Moana Blvd.
Honolulu, HI 96814
808.941.5500 (call directly to order Hawaii tea blends)
866.574.4832 (for customer service)