Ume Tea: A Traditional Japanese Tonic

Ume tea, a traditional Japanese beverage, has been integral to East Asian culture for millennia. Revered for its unique flavor and health benefits, this tea, made from the Ume plum, embodies a rich cultural heritage. 

Not just a refreshing drink, Ume tea is a potent elixir that promises overall wellness. The Ume plum, the tea’s source, has long been prized in traditional Japanese medicine for its medicinal benefits, with its origins dating back to the Nara period (710-794). 

This article will explore Ume tea’s intriguing journey through history, its distinct flavor profile, and its many health benefits. Whether you’re a tea enthusiast or curious about traditional Japanese beverages, join us in unraveling the secrets of Ume tea​​.

The Origin and Cultural Significance of Ume Tea

Ume tea, a traditional Japanese beverage, holds a special place in the heart of Japanese culture. It has been a part of Japan’s cultural and medicinal landscape for thousands of years. The Ume plum, from which the tea is made, is known for its refreshing taste and medicinal properties.

Dating back to the Nara period (710-794), Ume tea has been an enduring staple in traditional Japanese medicine. This longevity speaks volumes about its cultural significance and the esteem in which it’s held. Revered for its health benefits, Ume tea has traversed through centuries, maintaining its position as a symbol of wellness and traditional wisdom in Japanese society.

Throughout the ages, the consumption of Ume tea has been associated with various health benefits, leading to its widespread popularity and continued relevance in modern times. Its longevity as a beverage of choice is a testament to its deep-rooted significance in Japanese culture and its perceived benefits to health and well-being​​.

Ume Tea

The Unique Flavor Profile of Ume Tea

The Ume fruit, fundamental to creating Ume tea, possesses a distinctive tart and fruity flavor with an aroma akin to apricots. Due to its high astringency, the fruit isn’t consumed raw but rather fermented or pickled, transforming into umeboshi. Umeboshi presents a unique taste palette – salty, tangy, and extremely sour. This bold and dramatic flavor profile is often described as an acquired taste, especially for first-time tasters.

Among the various types of Ume, Nanko Ume is particularly esteemed. It’s larger than other Ume variants, reaching up to 5 centimeters in diameter, and features thin skin with soft flesh. Nanko Ume is predominantly harvested in Wakayama Prefecture, a region responsible for about 60% of Japan’s Ume production. Post-harvest, these plums are used to create a range of delightful products like umeshu (plum wine), ume jelly, ume juice, and, most notably, umeboshi, which is integral to Ume tea​​.

Health Benefits of Ume Tea

Ume tea, made from the Ume fruit, a Japanese and Korean variant similar to a plum, is a healthful beverage with a rich history of promoting wellness. Packed with vitamins and minerals, Ume tea is celebrated for its numerous health benefits. It is known to enhance the immune system, improve digestion, and aid in weight loss. Moreover, Ume tea’s soothing properties can help reduce stress and anxiety.

Ume fruit particularly excels in aiding digestive health. It enhances the efficiency of the digestive system, enabling better nutrient extraction from food, and alleviating bloating and dyspepsia, a condition characterized by discomfort due to stomach acid imbalance. The high antioxidant content in Ume, attributable to its bitter taste, provides a defense against various cancers and slows down aging. Additionally, the Ume fruit supports liver health by aiding in detoxification and reducing liver damage.

Another notable benefit is Ume’s role in oral health. Its antimicrobial properties can eliminate bacteria that cause bad breath and gum diseases like gingivitis. Furthermore, Ume tea’s impact on digestion extends to appetite regulation. The sourness of Ume stimulates an efficient digestive process, leading to better nutrient absorption and reduced appetite​​​​​​​​​​​​.

Ume Tea

How to Prepare Ume Tea

Preparing Ume tea is both an art and a simple pleasure. The traditional method of creating this tea involves using umeboshi plums or Korean green plum syrup (maesil-cheong). The syrup can be made at home for those who prefer a hands-on approach. The process is straightforward: mix equal parts of green fruit and sugar or honey, then allow the mixture to ferment for at least three months.

The tea-making process is simple once you have the syrup or umeboshi plums. Mix water with the plum syrup to your taste for the Korean version. You can enjoy the drink hot or cold; for a twist, you can even try it carbonated by adding sparkling water. Adding a drizzle of lime or lemon juice can enhance the flavor, and for a decorative touch, garnish with toasted pine nuts or a plum blossom flower.

The Japanese method of making Ume tea with umeboshi plums is equally straightforward. Start by breaking apart an umeboshi plum and placing it in a teacup. Pour hot water over the plum and steep it for 10 to 15 minutes. This tea can be enjoyed hot, warm, or chilled, and the steeping process can be repeated up to three times. After enjoying the tea, don’t discard the pits; they can be used in other recipes or as a healthful addition to other dishes​​​​.

Final Thoughts

In this exploration of Ume tea, we’ve journeyed through its rich historical tapestry, delved into its unique flavor profile, and uncovered its numerous health benefits. Whether prepared traditionally with umeboshi plums or using the more modern method with green plum syrup, Ume tea offers a delightful experience for both the palate and the body.

As we conclude, the significance of Ume tea in Japanese and East Asian culture cannot be overstated. It’s a beverage that encapsulates a blend of traditional wisdom, medicinal benefits, and a testament to the enduring appeal of natural remedies. Ume tea is more than just a drink; it’s a cultural experience, a healthful indulgence, and a connection to centuries of tradition. We invite you to embrace this unique tea and experience its refreshing and restorative qualities for yourself.


What is Ume Tea?

Ume tea is a traditional Japanese beverage made from the Ume plum, known for its unique tart flavor and health benefits.

Is Ume Tea the Same as Plum Tea?

Ume tea is often referred to as plum tea, as it’s made from a type of plum (Ume), but it has a unique flavor profile distinct from other plum teas.

How is Ume Tea Prepared?

Ume tea can be made by steeping umeboshi plums in hot water or mixing water with green plum syrup (maesil-cheong), served hot or cold.

Can Ume Tea be Consumed Cold?

Yes, Ume tea is delicious and refreshing when served cold.

What are the Health Benefits of Ume Tea?

Ume tea boosts the immune system, improves digestion, aids in weight loss, reduces stress and anxiety, and has antioxidant properties.

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