How to Add Tea to Food
Generally speaking, when using tea as a food ingredient, you want to select teas that would also pair well with the final product. To help you find the best teas for the food you're making, here's a list of (very general) tea flavor profiles by tea type. Once you've selected a tea for your food, you are ready to use it as an ingredient. These are the most common ways to add tea to recipes:
- Replace water with tea
- Infuse milk or other liquid ingredients with tea
- Melt solid ingredients (such as chocolate or butter), infuse them with tea and then use them in solid or liquid form
- Add powdered tea (such as matcha green tea or tea ground in a spice grinder) as a garnish, spice, rub or partial replacement for flour (about 1 teaspoon powdered tea in each cup of flour should suffice)
- Smoke meats or meat substitutes with tealeaves
- Marinate meats or meat substitutes with brewed tea
- Add a pinch of tealeaves to water for steaming foods such as fish, rice and vegetables
These techniques are used to cook with tea in recipes from around the world. Here are a few examples of traditional tea-infused food recipes:
- Japanese ochazuke ("tea soup") uses green tea as a form of “broth.”
- Chinese smoked duck uses Lapsang Souchong or other teas to impart a smoky flavor to the duck. Here’s a similar recipe for tea-smoked chicken. I’ve had a related (and incredibly delicious!) dish of tea-smoked mushrooms in Darjeeling, India.
- Barm Brack (an Irish favorite) uses black tea in lieu of other baking liquids.
Beyond these traditional foods, there are many ways to use tea as a food ingredient. Here are a few ideas you can try at home:
Savory Tea Foods
- Boil eggs and other foods in tea instead of water.
- Infuse teas into broths for soups and stews. Flavorful black teas (like Assams and Ceylons) are better for beef or pork broth, while umami-rich Japanese green teas (like Gyokuro and Sencha) are better for chicken or seafood broth.
- Marinate tofu, seitan, seafood or meat in tea for 30 minutes or more to impart flavor and (in the case of seafood) remove unpleasant odors.
- Use powdered green tea (such as matcha) as a rub for grilled meats. It has been shown to reduce the formation of carcinogens in grilled or charred meats, especially with fatty cuts of red meat (like those used for ground beef).
- Use brewed tea and tealeaves as an ingredient in rice dishes, like this Oolong Fried Rice.
- Stuff whole fish with oolong or green tealeaves before you steam them.
- Whisk matcha into sauces and dressings, like this matcha salad dressing.
- After brewing a quality Chinese green tea (such as Dragonwell), retain the leaves and sauté them with vegetables and/or meats.
- Infuse tea into a ganache for tea chocolate truffles. The most common tea truffles are Earl Grey, but other teas can taste amazing, too!
- As you warm milk to make hot chocolate, steep some tea in it. Strain the tealeaves (or remove the teabag) and continue to make hot chocolate as you normally would.
- Poach fruit in black or oolong tea with sugar or honey. Add spices as desired.
- Use tea or tea-infused milk/cream to make tea sorbets and tea ice creams.
- Infuse tealeaves into tea simple syrup for an easy shot of tea flavor in sweets and cocktails.
- Chill out with icy tea granitas or a tea smoothie.
- Make regular sweets recipes into matcha recipes with the addition of matcha powder as a spice. From matcha coconut macaroons to matcha truffles, there are lots of ways you can use matcha in sweet foods.