Nothing heralds spring like seasonal menu changes! Starbucks’ sakura latte (henceforth not italicized) is much like the pumpkin spice latte in the US: people line up for it and it sells out long before sakura season is over. Or, in Kanazawa and the rest of northern Japan, before it even starts.
This year, the latte was replaced by a sakura white hot chocolate, which I really liked, but unfortunately it’s been gone for a month and the sakura only started blooming this week. Luckily, a sakura “latte” (technically it’s a steamer since there’s no coffee) is really easy to make at home. All you need is preserved edible sakura, boiling water, and milk.
I buy my preserved sakura from Diamond in Omicho Market in the baking section, but I’ve seen it in other gourmet supermarket stores (like M’Za’s supermarket) with other sakura goods or with the baking goods or in Michi no Eki and some co-ops. Ask around! The sakura I usually get come in a small package which contains about 15-20 flowers and stems. Not all sakura are good to eat, so please don’t try to collect flowers and brew tea with them as they may have pesticides on them. Makiko Itoh also has some good information on Just Hungry and The Japan Times about how to eat and preserve sakura flowers and leaves.
What’s your favorite sakura food? In addition to sakura drinks, I’m a big fan of sakura mochi, sakura manjû, and sakura ice cream.
Sakura “Latte” (Sakura Steamer)
Adapted from “Sweet Sakura Latte Recipe” on Kyoto Obubu Tea Plantations.
Time: 40 minutes
Active time: 10 minutes
Inactive time (soaking the preserved sakura): 30 minutes
6-8 preserved sakura flowers and stems (sakura hana zuke, 桜花漬)
240 mL boiling water, plus ~2 TBSP extra for soaking
240 mL milk or non-flavored soymilk (milk: gyûnyû, 牛乳; low-fat milk: teishibônyû, 低脂肪乳; soy milk:tônyû, 豆乳)
1-2 tsp brown sugar, or to taste (sanontô, 三温糖)
1 small heatproof ramekin or bowl
2 mugs or tea bowls (chawan, 茶碗)
Heatproof containers for water and milk (measuring cup, bowl, etc.)
Strainer (furui, ふるい)
Optional: milk frother (miruku awadateki, ミルク泡立て器)
1. Boil the water. Place the preserved sakura in a small bowl or ramekin and pour about 2 TBSP boiling water. Let sit for 1 minute to remove the salt,then remove flowers. Set salty water aside for later.
2. Chop the sakura roughly with a knife. Place in a heatproof container and pour the 240 mL of boiling water over it. Let sit for 30-60 minutes.
3. After the sakura have soaked in the water, strain the pulp and set aside. Reheat the sakura tea and pour into two mugs or tea bowls. Stir in 1/2-1 tsp of sugar into each mug.
4. Heat the milk. Optional: froth milk. Pour into mugs over the sakura tea.
5. If desired, add ~1/4 tsp of the salty sakura water to balance the sweetness. Add any additional sugar to taste. Add 1/4 tsp of the sakura mash if desired.
Instead of milk, add plain green tea to the sakura tea. Sweeten if desired.