It’s time to take tea beyond the teapot. Our beloved beverage we know and love is extremely versatile in the kitchen - and can be wonderfully surprising to experiment with. Our friend, blogger and home chef extraordinaire, Olivia May tells us she frequently uses tea in recipes in place of water.
Tea can be used in recipes much like spices and other herbs. The most common way to use tea in cooking is by using the infused tea liquid, but it’s also possible to grind it in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. The use and preparation depends on the texture and flavor you’re looking for. Any tea can be used for cooking, the following are the classics that the teas chefs often come back to again and again.
Cooking with Camellia sinensis
Lapsang Souchong Black Tea
A legendary Chinese tea, Lapsang Souchong is smoked over a pine fire during manufacture, absorbing the deep smoky flavor into the leaves. Chefs use Lapsang Souchong to add a natural smoky flavor to both sweet and savory dishes. Consider these smoked caramels or these smoky lentil burgers. You can even use Lapsang Souchong in recipes that call for liquid smoke.
Cooking Grade Matcha Green Tea
Matcha, the stone ground Japanese tea is bright green and extremely high in chlorophyll. In cooking, it works as a natural food coloring and is particularly wonderful to bake with, as sugar and fat can counter matcha’s natural bitterness.
Depending on the amount of matcha you use, you won’t necessarily taste the tea. Olivia tells us she used matcha in this matcha ravioli recipe, specially for its color, not its flavor. You can, however, taste the matcha in this warming matcha smoothie, which Olivia says she drinks every morning.
“I don’t necessarily like to drink matcha,” Olivia says, “But I love to cook with it.” We recommend using cooking grade matcha for baking, and ceremonial grade matcha for drinking. Each style can be sifted prior to use to get the lumps out.
Dragonwell Green Tea
Another legendary Chinese tea, Dragonwell Green Tea has a mellow, nutty flavor that adds complexity to soups stocks, and is wonderful in this Burmese tea leaf salad. You can even experiment with this mellow tea by adding a bit of the infused tea to a stir-fry or to cooked rice.
Earl Grey Black Tea
Earl Grey, the traditional black tea that is flavored with bergamot oil, is a natural match for chocolate and shortbread cookies alike. Basically anything you’d serve alongside a classic cup of Earl Grey can be enhanced with this distinctive tea. Consider this Earl Grey chocolate torte, or these sweet little shortbread cookies, which are dotted with flecks of tea.
Masala Chai Black Tea
Before there was pumpkin spice, there was Masala Chai – the traditional Indian tea made with cardamom, ginger and cloves. Chefs use masala chai blends to add warming spices to desserts and fall favorites like pumpkin and apples. We’re in love with these Masala Chai spiced donuts, these masala chai cinnamon rolls and this pumpkin pie.
Cooking with Herbal Teas
Herbal teas are just as flexible and useful in the kitchen as Camellia sinensis, but without any of the caffeine! Check out some of our favorite herbs to cook with.
Chamomile imparts a buttery floral note to most things, making it a kitchen staple. It’s also a great anti-inflammatory! Use it in place of water in hummus, in this corn chowder recipe and in this chamomile vinaigrette for a subtle unexpected flavor.
Everyone’s favorite minty herb can be used in myriad ways! We love this recipe using Peppermint to make ice cream by steeping the tea in milk for several hours. Using a peppermint brew instead of plain water when making syrup is also a delicious way to make refreshing cocktails in the summer, or a minty hot chocolate in the winter! Peppermint also lends itself nicely to many desserts around the holidays.
Rooibos is the indigenous plant known as aspalathus linearis grown in South Africa, and loved for it’s health properties and smooth mouth feel. Adding it to recipes gives an extra boost of antioxidants and, of course, an interesting flavor. Green rooibos can be used in this roasted butternut squash soup recipe, red rooibos in this applesauce recipe, and any of our flavored rooibos blends work great as a base for a caffeine-free smoothie!
Crimson Berry Fruit Tisane
Loved for it’s strong and juicy flavor, our Crimson Berry tisane is extremely versatile and adds a bold, fruity flavor to anything. Made up of organic hibiscus, organic currants, organic rosehips, organic elderberries, organic cranberries, and organic South African rooibos, it packs a sweet/tart punch! Try it in popsicles for a healthy treat in the summer or experiment with our tea-infused yogurt recipe.