As convention would have it, we tend to think of tea only as something to drink. Stretch the imagination a bit and matcha comes to mind as a culinary ingredient used in green smoothies and gourmet desserts, but tea in all its forms can be a versatile culinary ingredient. Curious to learn more about how your favorite black, green, white, oolong, and herbal blends can elevate your next home-cooked meal? Scroll down to explore some intriguing ideas for cooking with tea.
BAKING WITH TEA
We’ll begin with the most familiar trend: matcha as a baking ingredient. By now, most tea enthusiasts are acquainted with the earthy, mint-colored powder made from stone-ground green tea leaves, and many are aware of its popularity in cakes and pastries. From donuts to macaroons, this healthy kitchen ingredient lends an aromatic punch along with a host of antioxidants and a moderate shot of calm, consistent energy similar to the stimulation we receive from drinking coffee, but without the extra jolt.
Matcha is also a wonderful addition to ice cream-based dishes, custards, milkshakes, and smoothies, balancing out the sweetness of the other ingredients.
Matcha frosted donuts topped with dried, edible flowers.
And you dont have to stop with matcha! Black, Green and Herbal teas also add delicious flavor tea in a multitude of baked good recipes, including an Earl Grey Tea Loaf, Triple Tea Scones, and Linzer Tea Cookies. And for a no-bake vegan dessert, try the Cherry Blossom Cashew Cheesecake.
ADDING TEA IN SOUPS
Matcha aside, regular green tea leaves that are typically reserved for steeping can add a host of health benefits to classic homemade soups, stews, and broths, like chicken noodle soup. A pinch of green tea leaves pairs nicely with onion and garlic, as well as ginger, adding an earthy snap to the broth and blending well with stronger savory flavors. What’s more, its antioxidants may help to speed up recovery from the common cold when paired with the warm, soothing properties of chicken stock.
Try adding a pinch of green tea leaves in your chicken soup recipe
MARINADES AND RUBS
We may not naturally think of tea as something that pairs well with meat, but it can bring depth and flavor to a rub or marinade when blended with the right ingredients. Tea-smoked duck is a classic Sichuan (or Szechuan) dish, incorporating the smoke from burning tea leaves into the process of slow-roasting the meat. Similar flavor profiles can emerge from combining soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, spices, and black or oolong tea leaves to create a marinade for chicken, turkey, or pork.
Likewise, smoky teas are exceptional in rubs for anything from steak to salmon. Add some rich black tea -- lapsang souchong is a great choice -- to your favorite spice rub and enjoy the intense complexity it imparts. The right tea rub can bring a tremendous punch of flavor to your next thoughtfully-prepared meal.
DIPS, SAUCES AND DRESSINGS
Dips and sauces can benefit from tea, as bold flavor combinations are often some of the best. Black tea is a particularly delicious addition to hoisin or soy sauce, adding a kick of unexpected earthiness to stir-fried vegetables, chicken, or pork. A small amount of sweet tea, brewed at a higher concentration than usual for more robust flavor, can blend perfectly with homemade sweet and sour sauce to make an excellent dip for fried chicken, tempura vegetables, or other indulgent foods cooked in oil.
A spring salad is the perfect accompaniment to our Wildflower Honey Citrus Vinaigrette.
And for a light but satisfying salad dressing made with tea, blend whole green tea leaves or matcha powder with oil, vinegar, tahini, garlic, and herbs to produce a zesty, creamy topping for a bed of greens. Enjoy with a glass of iced green tea as a perfect complement. Or try our Wildflower Honey Citrus Vinaigrette salad dressing, made with floral green tea.
While no true 'cooking' is needed, one of the most popular ways to include tea into recipes is by infusing them into cocktails. Adding a concentrated amount of tea into your drink adds notes of fruit, herbs or florals into your beverage for a unique, flavorful taste.
For those who enjoy spirited drinks, try the White Ginger Pear Champagne Cocktail, Hibiscus Blossom Margarita or the Orchid Vanilla Collins. For an iced tea infusion, try "The Peary Lane" Tipsy Tea Cocktail.
If non-alcoholic cocktails are more your speed, try the spicy Turmeric Tantra Mule, the refreshing Wildberry Hibiscus Spritzer, or the summery Raspberry Watermelon Iced Tea.
An infusion of fresh fruit and vibrant Wild Berry Hibiscus loose leaf tea.
Inspired to get cooking with tea? Review all our recipes here, and discover your new favorite culinary ingredient at Tea Forté.