Cherry blossoms or "sakura" flowers bloom every springtime in Japan.
Although "sakura season" lasts only three months every year, these pretty flowers are actually in full bloom only for about a week.
Luckily, there's a milk-tea shop in Manila that lets you experience sakura season all year round, and will also give you a taste of the lovely white and pink flowers—for real!
This charming and cozy spot is called Sakura Hanami, which translates to "cherry blossom viewing" in Japanese.
One little peek at their perky, predominantly pink and flower-filled interiors is all it will take to entice you to go on a selfie frenzy.
PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) headed to their branch in Banawe, Quezon City, on January 24, 2020, to interview Sakura Hanami co-owner Stephanie Joyce Esteban.
According to Joyce, she and her business partners Ella Choi and Sharmay Cu initially planned to make their interiors look as simple as possible.
But with the continuous upsurge of new milk tea shops in the country, they knew they needed to do something different.
"Noong una, ang gusto namin dito is plain. Di ba uso ngayon iyong minimalist, iyong konti lang ang design?
"'Tapos noong nagbe-brainstorm kami, sabi ko, 'Hindi ata kasi ang dami nang gumagawa ng ganoon," she recounts.
"'Tapos, iyong isang partner ko kasi, girly-girly iyon sobra. So mahilig sa pink, mahilig sa blush-blush colors, nagpa-layout siya ng ganito.
"Sabi ko, 'Okay iyon, ah. Maganda iyan para tayo naman iyong sobra-sobrang O.A. Gawin naman nating punung-puno ng bulaklak ito, parang wedding.'
"'Tapos, doon namin nabuo iyong idea na magki-click ito kasi wala pa yatang nakakagawa nito."
After agreeing on the concept of sakura-inspired "wedding" for their store's vibe, Joyce and her partners proceeded to bring it to life with the help of an artist.
They decided not to get an interior designer "para makatipid."
"If you're starting small, kailangan mong magtipid. Kaya mo naman, e," she said.
With the help of their artist and suppliers, the owners of Sakura Hanami made sure that everything in their store is aligned with their theme and color scheme.
Joyce details, "Meron kaming color scheme. Pink lang, purple, white, and brown.
"Makikita mo dito walang color green. Kahit iyong mga gamit, hangga't maari, walang black, walang blue, walang yellow."
SAKURA HANAMI'S ONE-OF-A-KIND TEA
While they were busy glamming up their first branch in Maginahawa Street, Diliman, Quezon City, Joyce and her partners also thought of creating an equally unique concept for their drinks.
She recalls, "Siyempre iyong drinks mo, kailangan i-innovate mo. Gawa ka ng wala sa iba para puntahan ka.
"So nag-create kami ng drinks na in-line sa design," she said.
"Ito na iyong Blooming Teas namin. So may edible flowers ito, iyong cherry blossom.
"Hindi siya fresh, pickled siya. Parang naka-preserve para kapag kinain mo, lasang flower, manamis-namis."
To make their customers' experience of sakura season more legit, most of Sakura Hanami's ingredients are imported directly from Japan.
"Majority ng ingredients namin ini-import namin sa Japan kasi majority wala dito sa Philippines. Wala rin sa China, Hong Kong, Taiwan. Japan lang talaga," Joyce said.
Sakura Hanami's Blooming Teas come in eight flavors, with Traditional Cherry Blossom Tea (PHP195) and Blue Pea Fruit Tea (PHP175) as their best sellers.
PEP.ph got to try the Blue Pea Fruit Tea and Blooming Paradise Flower Tea (PHP195), and was refreshed by their mild floral scent and sweet-but-a-bit-tart flavor.
Sakura Hanami's unique, luscious milk-tea selection includes the best-selling White Sakura Milk Tea, which has a balanced blend of milk and citrus; the Matcha Creme Milk Tea, which comes with a strong vegetal flavor without the lingering aftertaste.
Sakura Hanami's peach-flavored milk tea is not only "Instagrammable," but sweet and zesty, too.
The Limited Edition Peach Paradise Tea comes with chewy chia seeds, while the Hanami Dream Tea is a unique combination of peach pear and butterfly blue teas.
Completing the list of bestsellers are the Lava Pearl Latte and Red Velvet Cheesecake Milk Tea.
The Lava Pearl Latte is Sakura Hanami's flagship drink, according to Joyce.
Although it looks similar to many brown sugar milk teas, what makes this one different is that Sakura Hanami mixes its rich, smooth-tasting coffee with its signature Lava syrup infused with black sugar.
The Red Velvet Milk Tea, meanwhile, is a crowd favorite for its balanced blend of sweet cream and fresh organic tea.
Sakura Hanami milk teas are sold in medium to extra-large (one liter) cups starting at PHP95 to PHP195.
SAKURA HANAMI SNACKS
The latest addition to Sakura Hanami's menu is their appetizing snacks.
The shop offers Sakura bites or sweet donuts for as low as PHP40.
They come in special flavors such as avocado, green melon, ube, chocolate banana, and raspberry.
Sakura's Savory Donuts are also a must-try for their soft baked dough and scrumptious filling.
They come in three variants—shrooms, pepperoni cheese melt, and beef Angus cheese melt—for PHP68 each.
Aside from these, they also sell moist caramel cake and nachos in their stores.
Sakura Hanami has branches in Maginhawa and Banawe in Quezon City; Taft and UST in Manila; and Bocaue, Bulacan.