Even serious sippers who consider themselves tea connoisseurs may not have tried the latest culinary trend: cooking with tea. Whether you prefer oolong or rooibos, jasmine or Darjeeling, adding tea enhances the flavor of food and gives the dish a special touch.
Cooking with tea requires you to get creative and experiment. There are three main ways to cook with tea: by using ground tea leaves, tea bags or freshly brewed tea, often in place of water. Green teas and white teas usually have a milder flavor, while black teas provide a stronger punch. Choose your teas wisely!
Here are a few simple guidelines to help you explore the use of tea leaves in your recipes:
- Start with tea that you are familiar with and that you love. This isn’t the time to use up that box of mint tea that you despise. Use flavors that your palate already appreciates.
- Consider the nuances of flavor. Whether you’re using white tea, black tea, green tea or red tea, each particular batch of leaves contains various nuances of flavor – much like wine. Along with the color of the tea leaves, consider the shades of flavor. Is it fruity? Flowery? Grassy? Smoky? Sweet? Spicy? Think about all the tea’s flavors before adding it to your dish.
- Don’t forget the caffeine! If you use a caffeinated tea such as Earl Grey, it will caffeinate your dish! Do your dinner party guests a favor and use decaf tea instead.
- Always grind your tea leaves before adding to a recipe. You can use a pepper mill, coffee grinder or spice grinder to do the trick.
- Adding ground tea leaves to baked goods is an easy place to start. Muffins, cookies, cakes, breads and scones pair with tea flavors well, especially when the recipe is fairly plain (sugar cookies, pound cake, shortbreads, corn muffins, vanilla scones etc.).
- Combine ground tea leaves with fresh herbs or spices to create a tasty rub for beef, pork, poultry, fish, tofu and tempeh. Let the flavors soak in overnight for best results. You can also combine tea leaves with vinegar- or oil-based marinades.
- Mix tea leaves with bread crumbs for a tasty topping, which is added right before cooking.
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- Sprinkle tea leaves into stir-fries while cooking. Green tea leaves pair particularly well!
- Merge your greens: add green tea leaves to leafy greens when cooking. The fresh, earthy flavors of kale, chard and spinach are all enhanced by a sprinkling of green tea.
- Cook your rice with tea to infuse it with flavor. Jasmine tea creates delicious jasmine rice, which pairs well with many Asian dishes.
- Poach salmon and other fish in citrus-flavored white teas for a tender, exotic flavor. Teas are also great for poaching fruit: pears, apples, peaches and plums.
- Add brewed tea to soups and stews.
- Cooking stock or broth? Steep a few bags of mild white tea in your pot before using in the recipe to add a touch of tea flavor.
- Steep a tea bag in melted butter for a few minutes. Try sweeter teas for butters bound for baked goods like breakfast muffins; use bolder teas for butters bound for vegetables and grains.
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