Have you ever thought that tea could be more than a comforting warm drink? If not, it’s time to! We have some tips to help you learn how to cook with tea. There’s no doubt it will improve some of your dishes!
I like tea and I have a lot of it in my kitchen; a full shelf even: rooibos, green tea, black tea, black tea with jasmine, white tea, peppermint, chamomile, and linden. Not to mention mixes of ‘calming’, ‘relaxing’, ‘cold and flu’ herbs labeled as teas. I keep in the kitchen so many teas that I don’t get to drink them all and most of the time I end up throwing them out.
This is the state of mind I was talking about.
For this actual reason - I don’t like throwing out foods and drinks - I started to research how to cook with tea. I even remembered that I once saw Jamie Oliver on TV cooking rice with jasmine tea. He dropped a jasmine flower in hot water, that bloomed and infused, then he used that liquid to cook the rice. I was impressed! That blooming tea was so beautiful that I almost felt its flavor throughout the screen!
Why you should try cooking with tea
Different types of tea have distinctive flavors: from woodsy and grassy to astringent and strong, from sweet to bitter and perfumed. If your tea has any ginger or pepper, prepare yourself for something spicy. On the opposite herb and floral mixtures have a more subtle taste.
When you cook with tea, you have two options. No 1: follow your recipe. And no. 2: experiment, but know your tea flavor and consider if it blends well into your dish.
If you want to cook with tea, you can use anything from jasmine, Darjeeling, rooibos, oolong, green tea, or matcha (green tea ground to a jade green powder).
Green tea goes well with vegetables, fish, and poultry, while black tea works well with beef and mushrooms. Rooibos is a caffeine-free infusion that you can add to soups. But that’s not all you can do with tea.
How to cook with tea. 5 ideas
There are different ways to cook with tea. But you should first know how to use it. You can infuse it, and use the liquid instead of water in smoothies, cocktails, soups, or stews; you can grind it in a coffee grinder, then add the tea to sauces, batter, or dough, but you can also make a crust for fish or meat. Now, let’s see what you can do with it.
Tea can complete the flavor of your baked goods, your oatmeal, or smoothies. Instead of vanilla extract, flavor your cookie dough with matcha powder, for example. Or you can try making some chai-spiced shortbread cookies. Masala chai is an Indian black tea spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, ground cloves, ground ginger, and black peppercorn. It’ll also give your shortbread dough a crisp and buttery texture.
Masala or green tea can also be used in different oatmeal recipes, along with walnuts, dried fruit, non-dairy milk, honey, and oats. You can also poach peaches and pears in black or oolong tea.
Sinking some tea leaves in hot dairy for an hour or two, and then straining them gives you a sweet-and-nutty flavor which is perfect for custards and ice cream.
2. Soups or stews
The most obvious way to cook with tea is to replace water with it. Brew the tea and let it get to room temperature. Then use it in any recipe that calls for water. Try green tea in your ramen soup, but also in vegetables, fish, and poultry soups and stews. Traditional Chinese medicine claims that tea makes a less greasy, but more restorative soup.
3. Cooking vegetables or cereals in it
Do not hesitate to cook whole grains like rice, quinoa or millet in tea. Just use the infusion to boil rice in it, like Jamie did. Also, brewed tea is a good option for boiling beans or other vegetables in. Choosing the tea is up to you (black tea, rooibos, and matcha are some excellent options).
You can also stir-fry in tea. Just add your favorite tea bag to melted butter in a saucepan. Cover the pan and wait for several minutes before removing the tea. That’s how you get infused butter, ready for stir-frying.
Tea leaves are essential herbs and they can be added directly to dishes while they are cooking, or you can brew the leaves and then chop them up and add them to dishes. Green tea is especially good for vegetable dishes since it tastes very much like dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale.
You can poach some fish in a broth of jasmine green tea with fresh ginger and onions. How? Just replace water with brewed tea! It’s that simple! Another way you can cook with tea when you want some fish is to grind it and use it to make a crust. Grind black or green tea, then mix it with coarse salt and other spices (coriander, peppercorns, ginger, ground sugar, star anise) to make a crust for your fillet. Tuna, cod, and salmon go well with this crust. Just coat your fish with it and bake it!
Meat goes very well with tea. For example, you can use finely ground Earl Grey tea (a tea blend which has been flavored with the addition of bergamot oil), salt, and pepper to rub a pork loin with, 45 minutes before baking it.
Other than making a crust, another way to cook with tea is to add it (leaves or ground) to your marinade, along with your favorite spices and herbs, such as bay leaves and coriander. Marinate your chicken meat in it, then cook it as usual.
But maybe the best-known recipe with tea and meat is smoked tea duck. ‘Zhangcha duck’ is a quintessential dish of Sichuan cuisine. Smoked tea duck is prepared by hot smoking a marinated duck over black tea leaves (and camphor twigs and leaves). Due to its complicated preparation, it’s usually eaten at festive events. But some people dare to make it at home. It’s up to you!
When you start cooking with tea, begin with small batches of brewed tea or finely ground tea leaves. See what flavors you like most and, if you feel like it, increase the volume gradually in your dishes. I bet you’ll see cooking with different eyes! In a more flavorful light!