Korean Yuja Cha (Yuza tea) is a traditional Korean tea made with citrus and honey that's enjoying a resurgence as Koreans and others seek a healthier lifestyle. It's quite popular in the winter months, which makes sense because the vitamin C it contains may help to fight colds and flu, which are common in winter.
In fact, Korean Yuja Chai is marketed as a Korean cold and flu remedy. However, there are many good reasons to drink it beyond its help in warding off winter illnesses, since it's quite tasty and thirst-quenching. It's also said to help with indigestion, suppress coughing, and even relieve hangovers.
Yuja tea's main ingredient is the yuja fruit. Yuja is a citrus fruit that ranges from yellowish green in color, similar to a lemon, to a bright orange. The ripest, best fruit will be orange in color. Yuja may in fact be a hybrid of the sour mandarin and the Ichang papeda, a form of citrus fruit that's native to southwest and west-central China.
The yuja fruit normally grows to about the size of a small orange, although some of the largest yuja fruits can reach the size of a small grapefruit. They're very aromatic, with a distinctly tart citrus odor.
When you cut into a yuja, you'll find it contains a very acidic and dry pulp. The taste is somewhat like that of a tart grapefruit, although you should be able to detect traces of the fruit's mandarin orange ancestry, as well.
According to the Korea Tourism Organization, Korean Yuja Cha originated well before the 13th century. King Sejong the Great, who presided over Korea in the 1400s, was its most famous advocate.
Korean Yuja Cha is very easy to make at home if you can find fresh citron. If you cannot find fresh yuja, then many Asian groceries and almost all Korean markets will sell the Yuja Chung (Citron Tea Marmalade).
- For the Yuja Chung (Citron Tea Marmalade):
- 5 yuja fruits (citron or yuzu), scrubbed clean
- 1/4 cup water
- 3/4 cup honey
- For the Yuja Cha (Yuja tea):
- 1 spoonful Yuja Chung
- 1 cup water
- Slice the yuja fruits thinly and quarter. Leave the peel intact but remove the seeds.
- Dissolve the honey in very warm water, making a thick syrup.
- Add the yuja fruit slices to the mixture, mixing to combine into yuja chung (yuja marmalade).
- Keep in a closed container at room temperature for one day and then store in refrigerator.
- To make tea, dissolve one spoonful of yuja chung into one cup of water.
*When you drink the tea, you also eat the bits and pieces of yuja fruit and rind that come your way.