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Sunday, 01 November 2015 12:38

The Secret Ingre-Tea-ent - Part II

Customers often ask me, when I cook with tea, do I use the leaves or the actual tea infusion? There are actually several ways you can use both. For example, when making a dry rub for ribs, I mix fire-smoked Lapsang Souchong leaves with garlic powder, dry mustard, paprika, and salt. On the other hand, when making pan-fried pork chops, I often steep a teaspoon of Lapsang Souchong in 1/4 cup of water and add that to the pork chops with a pat of butter and a pinch of sage at the very end of cooking to make a quick and easy finishing sauce. It's gotten to the point where only half of my Lapsang Souchong is in the tea cabinet. The other half, I grind into an easy-to-sprinkle powder with my mortar and pestle and keep it in a spice jar right in the front of my spice cabinet. I enjoy adding it, as well as other teas, to soups, stocks, and even the occasional chili. It's a star feature in my roast chicken recipe, and even shows up in vinaigrettes and chicken salad. I even mix it with kosher salt and sugar to home-cure my own smoked salmon―the possibili-teas are endless!

What about the sweet side of life? Well, for starters, did you know tea can be an ingredient in making chocolates? European-trained master chocolatier Kristin Joslin of Cocoa Nouveau uses several of our teas in her delectable confections, such as our Earl Grey in her truffles. But even if you're not a chocolatier, you can still incorporate tea into your sweets. Try adding Earl Grey leaves into your next simple syrup for a bright citrus zing. You can even cold-infuse tea in cream and whip the result for a one-of-a-kind dessert topping! Tea is great in cookies, cakes, tarts, frosting, pie filling...the list goes on!

Considering the small amount of tea called for by most recipes, you don't need to worry about staying up all night if you cook with tea unless you're extremely sensitive to caffeine. However, even if you are, or if you have a family member who can’t have Camellia sinensis, you can still enjoy using fruit and/or herbal tea blends to spice up your meals. Try macerating a fruit blend such as our Cranberry Apple or Lady Hannah's Whole Fruit. You can then use the result in any number of ways, such as using it to top a wheel of Brie before baking it in the oven for a decadent appetizer or dessert, or adding to the filling of a cobbler or pie. A touch of our fruit blends is also excellent in savory applications such as braises and stews. Throwing the fruit blends into oatmeal or even stuffings as they cook adds flavor and texture, as well as vitamin content.

As you can see, there's a lot you can do with tea, and we've only just scratched the surface! We're always coming up with new ideas to try and share. Let your tea do double duty in the kitchen, and soon you'll have friends, family, and other party guests asking you for your secrets!

(Click Here to read the first installment of this blog entry.)

Sunday, 01 November 2015 12:23

The Secret Ingre-Tea-ent - Part I

One of the reasons I've become so fascinated by tea is that it is one of the most versatile ingredients you can have in your kitchen. I'm not only speaking of the vast breadth of variety in tea flavors and styles, of course. Most people think of tea as just a beverage, but I love cooking with it as well!

All teas possess unique benefits that make them both useful and fun in the kitchen. Black, green, and oolong teas all contain tannin, a polyphenol with astringent properties which, when the tea is used in dry rubs, marinades, sauces, or stews, acts as a natural meat tenderizer by helping to break down tough muscle fibers. I have also taken to replacing water with different kinds of tea in recipes both savory and sweet to add an extra dimension of flavor to the dishes, which opens up all kinds of options to add fun new twists on every recipe. 

Those of you keeping score at home may note that the bitterness of oversteeped tea is due to overheated tea leaves releasing tannin and wonder whether cooking with tea will make food bitter. As a general rule, if you are going to infuse the tea and use the result in your recipe, you should follow your normal brewing process in order to avoid a bitter result. However, there is no need to worry when using dry tea leaves, as long as they are not being used as a hot infusion.

For example, in a marinade, the cellular structure of the tea leaves is not being violently disrupted as in hot brewing; tannins are gently extracted from the tea through osmosis instead. This provides the tenderizing benefits without having to worry about the bitterness of oversteeped leaves. When using dry leaves to season something prior to cooking it, the food being seasoned generally has enough surface area to negate any issues.

Now that we have your mind clicking on the concept of using tea in your cooking, stay tuned for our next installment of this blog to get some great examples on how to incorporate that secret ingredient to any of your recipes!

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