6 Surprising Ways to Cook With Tea
Last Updated: Sep 20, 2016
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There’s something incredibly comforting about a steaming cup of tea, but did you know that tea isn’t only meant for sipping? You can actually cook with it, too! We’ve rounded up six ideas that will help you use tea in ways that are both healthful and fun. From cookies to frozen pops, you’ll be surprised by how delicious cooking with tea can be.
Naturally caffeine-free, rooibos — also known as red tea — tastes nutty, sweet and fruity. It’s a forgiving tea that can’t be oversteeped and won’t turn bitter if you leave it a few minutes too long. For use in cooking, rooibos is an excellent replacement for vegetable broth, having similar earthy and sweet characteristics. You can substitute it ounce for ounce to bring a rich, herbal flavor to any dish that calls for vegetable broth.
With its magenta color and tart flavor, hibiscus tea makes for a beautiful, refreshing beverage. It's also an excellent base for frozen pops instead of coconut water or fruit juice. Due to its tartness, sweetening is necessary unless you are pairing it with very sweet fruit, such as ripe bananas. From a health perspective, hibiscus is rich in vitamin C and can be used to treat menstrual discomfort. Similar to rooibos, it’s naturally caffeine-free. So go ahead and consume it late at night!
Mild and sweet, white tea comes from a rare variety of the same plant as green tea, but it has none of green tea’s grassy notes. It’s made only from buds that are covered in silvery hair, hence the name. There are many varieties, with the two most common being silver needle and white peony. Due to minimal processing, white tea has a host of phytochemicals that are more effective than green tea at fighting oxidative stress. Because of its light flavor, it is good for using in plainer recipes. Try replacing cooking water for grains with white tea. Oatmeal, couscous and brown rice are all choices that marry well with the taste of white tea.
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A nutritional powerhouse, matcha contains EGCG, which may inhibit tumor growth, and L-theanine to boost relaxation. Matcha is bold, grassy and slightly sweet in flavor. It comes in bright-green “ceremonial grade,” and darker/muddier-green “cooking grade.” It’s a delightful choice for baking — try using it to liven up a simple grain-free shortbread cookie. Simply add a few teaspoons of matcha powder to the dough before baking.
This Indian black tea is strong, malty and highly caffeinated. Often sold as Irish breakfast tea, it’s a more flavorful alternative to English breakfast (which is Ceylon tea, often blended with Assam and other teas). Because of its powerful taste, Assam tea can hold its own with coffee or espresso for spice rubs. Grind the leaves and combine with chili powder and your spices of choice to make a dry rub; it’s perfect for sprinkling onto cuts of meat or vegetables prior to roasting.
Fermented and then aged, pu-erh is a Chinese black tea that’s sold in cakes of compressed leaves. The rich and full-bodied flavor varies with aging time, growing more potent as it ages. It has experienced a huge growth in popularity in recent years, both for its unique flavor profiles and its health-promoting properties. Pu-erh is rich in antioxidants and cholesterol-lowering benefits. Use it to marinate vegetables or to tea-smoke meat and fish.
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