According to the Almighty Wiki, yuzu is a citrus fruit native to East Asia, which may be a hybrid between sour mandarin oranges and Ichang papeda (whatever that is).
I first learned of its existence when “researching” Korean jarred teas. Sometimes, yuzu was used as an ingredient – along with honey – to create a jelly-like tisane. Since the odd li’l citrus fruit was frightfully aromatic, the flavor came through rather well.
A couple of years later, I ran into a tamaryokucha (read: curly sencha) that was blended with yuzu rind. Alas, I never had the money to buy it. But the idea of a yuzu-blended anything occupied a bit of synaptic real estate in my brain. I figured, if it was anything like an Earl Grey, I’d like it.
Fast-forward another year or so, the owners of one of my favorite tea haunts – The Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants – paid a visit to Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. A grower there passed along several of his wares for sale. I even featured three of his senchas in my first ever TeaCuplets entry.
However, his green teas weren’t the only thing he passed on.
The owners also brought back a black tea blend created by the grower – one blended with yuzu rind. Upon tasting it, they – and those that worked for them – exclaimed, “Oh yeah, we’re gonna need more of this!”
The story behind the blend goes as thus: On the tea farm owned by this Shizuokan grower, there is a solitary yuzu tree. It was planted by his ancestors several hundred years ago. Said grower used the fruit from that one tree, ground up the rind, then blended and scented a batch of kocha (Japanese black tea) with it. The results (apparently) were magic.
When I learned all of this, I had actually come into The Jasmine Pearl for my usual standby – their Earl Grey. When the teashop girl on duty told me about this, though, I immediately demanded a cup. A large cup.
I proceeded to nurse three servings of the stuff over the next two hours.
A week or so went by, and I couldn’t get the tea out of my head. It was like an Earl Grey…but for samurai. I could seriously see a bunch of swordsmen in kendo gear drinking this prior to sparring. It was very much a Zen Earl Grey.
Which made me wonder…
On a second visit to the Pearl, I asked for the Yuzu Black iced. It was a hot enough day, I could totally justify it.
I expected some sort of flavor loss – less rind in the taster notes and such – but the exact opposite occurred. The citrus presence was even stronger than before. Even further cementing my earlier Earl Grey comparison.
Another week went by, and I sampled many other teas from many other sources. But thoughts of yuzu still danced in my tiny brain. I had just finished a 93-hour, two-week pay period, and I was exhausted. However, the results of that labor showed on the paycheck. I had a little bit of extra money in my jeans.
I did two things: One, I purchased a U.S.-grown white tea I’d been eyeing. And two, I finally picked up a couple of ounces of the Yuzu Black for home use. Every few days or so, between my usual morning bouts of eso-“tea”-rica, I eye the bag.
Then I get to brewing.
Earl Grey, I think you have a challenger, and he’s armed with a katana and a teacup.