Home Lifestyle International Tea Day: unique ways to use tea in your cooking

International Tea Day: unique ways to use tea in your cooking

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Tea is not just for drinking, check out these creative ideas for cooking with it, too.

Did you know that there are several ways to use tea to impart flavour in your cooking? Picture: Stacy Zarin Goldberg

MAY 21 is International Tea Day.

TEA is the most popular drink across the globe, after water. It is an emotionally territorial beverage, and the way you brew and drink your tea is a personal preference that might not be shared. In South Africa, it was the British who influenced our tea culture, but we also have the humble rooibos tea which has a real Mzansi flavour.

Did you know that there are several ways to use tea to impart flavour in your cooking? Research the tasting notes of your tea selection to understand how to build complementary flavours around it.

Here’s a rundown of some of the ways to cook with tea, in both sweet and savoury dishes.

Tea can be added to scones to add flavour and interest. Picture: Pexels/Pervane Mustafa

Add to cookies or other baked goods

From scones and brownies to cookies galore, tea is an excellent addition. Add a drizzle of reduction to the dough, sprinkle some ground leaves right into the batter or garnish with a touch of tea. You really cannot go wrong.

Use it as a rub

Adding tea leaves to the usual rub suspects, like salt, brown sugar and garlic, adds a savoury note to quick-cooking meats like steak, as well as low-and-slow-cooked cuts like pork shoulder and ribs.

Instead of water or broth, you can use brewed tea as the liquid base for your soup. Picture: Pexels/Eduardo Krajan

Use in soups

Instead of water or broth, consider using brewed tea as the liquid base for your soup. The type of tea you choose can dramatically change the soup’s overall flavour.

A hearty black tea can add an intense depth to a meat-based soup, while a lighter green tea is better suited to a vegetable- or tofu-based soup, adding a subtly grassy undertone.

Make ice cream

If you are a home-made ice cream person, the taste of home-made tea-flavoured ice cream is outrageous. Earl grey, green tea, rooibos or even the sweeter herbal teas make for an excellent flavour profile to anchor an ice cream.

Throw in some fun mix-ins or toppings, and your kitchen will become the top ice cream parlour in town.

Tea leaves are essentially herbs and they can be used as such. Picture: Pexels/Lilartsy

Use as a herb

Tea leaves are essentially herbs and they can be used as such. You can add the leaves 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 adding to vegetable dishes since it tastes similar to dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale. Use them however you would dried herbs such as oregano or thyme.

Try adding some green tea leaves to your next tofu scramble, vegan omelette or stir-fry.

Use in dips, sauces and dressings

Dips and sauces can benefit from tea as bold flavour 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 a more robust flavour, can blend perfectly with home-made sweet and sour sauce to make an excellent dip for fried chicken or other indulgent foods cooked in oil.

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