When I worked in downtown Oakland in college, I’d occasionally return to my quaint Berkeley studio with a huge plastic bag of jujubes from Chinatown. I never really ate jujubes growing up (we were really more of a longan family), but I decided to pick some up while buying banh cuốn rice roll sheets during my lunch break one day. I found that I liked how dry and sweet jujubes tasted, like if cotton candy was somehow both chewy and crunchy.
In hindsight, I didn’t really know how to pick out jujubes (lol). I thought that they normally looked wrinkly and had a bit of a desiccated texture, but I now know that jujubes are supposed to resemble mini apples — in fact, they’re even called “Chinese apples” (táo tàu) in Vietnamese!
Over the past few years, my dad has diligently cared for two jujube trees in the backyard. Dad’s fresh jujubes are crisp and plump, featuring a coppery gloss. They look more like acorns than sad brown prunes. They’re a big hit at our house, a beloved treat for humans and dogs alike.
Drying jujubes for jujube tea
Lately, we’ve been eating our fair share of dried jujubes. Since we’ve had such a good yield this year, my mom suggested that we sundry our jujubes to pop into my dad’s refreshing chè sâm bổ lượng (or ching bo leung) sweet cold soup dessert, which consists of TCM (traditional Chinese medicine)-adjacent ingredients such as seaweed, longan, pearl barley, and lotus. We’ve simply left our jujube harvest in a covered baking tray outside in the 90-degree heat, but you could also stick fresh jujubes into a dehydrator to dry them out.
Brewing jujube tea
Besides enjoying dried jujubes in chè, I’ve been brewing up jujube tea, formally cementing my status as an Asian auntie. A faint amber yellow in color, jujube tea is sweet, fragrant, and, I swear, excellent for sleep.
My jujube tea recipe
I’m sure there’s a proper way to brew it, but here’s my very simple jujube tea recipe: I’ve simply been removing the seeds from my jujubes and letting them steep in boiling water for about 10 to 15 minutes. For extra flavor, I’ll also toss in dried goji berries and fresh slices of ginger, but I do find that ginger’s a bit too spicy for late summer. For extra sweetness, I know that some people also add honey to their jujube tea, but I’m content with the sweetness from the jujube fruit itself.
If you’re looking to round out your warm autumn beverage rotation, jujube tea definitely deserves a spot next to hot toddies, mulled wines, and pumpkin spice lattes, especially if you lean towards herbal, non-alcoholic drinks. In a warm Central Valley September, I let my tea cool off and pour it over some ice for a soothing evening refresh! In the autumn, I’ll be brewing up many more cups of piping hot ginger and jujube tea.