I like to cook. No. I love to cook. It’s my hobby and my passion. I’m always scouring through magazines and books, looking for that new interesting recipe that will impress my friends. It doesn’t matter much to me if the recipe is complicated or simple; what I’m looking for is something a little bit different. Often this is something as subtle as adding basil to a curry or as dramatic as pairing quinoa with mango. Recently I’ve been experimenting with tea leaves and I’ve found the results to be very exciting.
Before I start getting into recipes that involve tea leaves (which will comprise my next post or two) I want to take a minute to discuss the best way to utilize tea leaves in cooking. These are very simple guidelines that, if followed, will make for delicious results.
Recipes will call for tea to be used in cooking in one of two ways: processed leaves or liquor.
First and foremost, as with any ingredients, freshness is key. You’ll want to use fresh tea leaves – NOT BAGGED! I’ve already written at length about the evils of bagged tea but in this case the reason is that tea bags are full of fannings, or tea dust, which loses flavor fast. Since the whole point of using tea is to enhance flavor, you’ll want to start with tea leaves that still have, well, a lot of flavor. So put down that box, and pick up a teaspoon of Moroccan Mint.
Likewise, it’s best to use freshly brewed tea, made with fresh water and not the cold leftover tea that’s been sitting on your desk for a day (blah). Remember that you can infuse other liquids with tea; you don’t have to only use water. If, for example, a recipe calls for milk or juice or stock, you can always steep loose-leaf tea in the liquid just as you would with water. Just make sure you bring the milk or juice to just under a boil before you add the tea.
Finally, and this again goes with keeping flavors fresh, if a recipe calls for you to grind tea, do so in small batches. Don’t take you entire supply of Classic Black and pulverize it, or you’ll find it’s lost its flavor by the next time you want to use it.
For cleaning your processor between grindings, you can either use a brush, or grind a tablespoon of raw rice to powder in order to remove any residual flavors.
These are my guidelines for cooking with tea. Follow them and your results can be just divine. And I promise, recipes will be posted soon!