The surprising nuances to Japan’s national citrus fruit, the yuzu

For us, the yuzu is everything we love about Japan. Tangy yet mellow, the yuzu’s subtlety and nuance are a revelation: when you first taste it, it is both oddly familiar and yet an unforgettable surprise.

No wonder this hardy citrus fruit, a prominent part of washoku (traditional Japanese food) has proven a global sleeper hit. Parisians buy their yuzu sorbets in Berthillon on Île St-Louis; Californians drink their yuzu martinis in San Francisco’s Trick Dog. Of all Japan’s unique ingredients, it has become one of its most successful export stories, as well as a strong link with its Northeast Asian neighbours, where the youzi or yuja is an element in both Chinese and Korean cuisines.

Venturing overseas

Demand is, however, shrinking in Japan. But the farmers in the valleys of Kochi Prefecture have proved to be innovative and passionate entrepreneurs, as they seek to re-energise their communities. Despite not speaking a word of any foreign language, they have globalised the yuzu. Most Japanese companies would spend years on intricate sales plans before venturing overseas: Okabayashi-san, a farmer whom we have got to know well, just hopped on a plane to Australia and then Europe, hired translators, and started selling fruit.
All of this made us fall in love with the yuzu: its elusive and delicate flavour typifies Japan, while its producers represent an unexpectedly relaxed and global outlook. And it is why we became the Yuzu Brother and Sisterhood. It is the promise of a never-ending, happy discovery.