Cooking with Tea Syrups
In my last blog, I talked about the basics of tea-infused simple syrups: how to make them, and the how and why of blending them into drinks. This time, let's take a look at the other ways we can use tea-infused simple syrups in the kitchen!
A natural starting point for syrups is in desserts and sweets. Sugar plays a vital role in breaking up starch molecules and smoothing out the texture of baked goods and sauces. The flavor of the tea you infuse into your syrup will add a touch of complexity to whatever you choose to make. Try experimenting with tea syrups as a more flavorful base for homemade frostings and icings, especially if you're tired of artificial-tasting extracts! If you already make your own preserves and pie fillings, use a tea-infused simple syrup to personalize your flavors—our Rose Black tea pairs stunningly with raspberry jam, for example, and our Earl Grey can add a citrusy twist to blackberry or cherry pie filling. For a spicier play on things, you can also try our San Franni's Chai in a syrup the next time you make pumpkin pie. Just make sure to monitor the texture when using tea syrups in baking, since you'll be adding more liquid than normal.
It's easy to take a sweet syrup into more savory territory, too! The natural sweetness in a tea-infused syrup can help cut sharp vinegars in salad dressings (I like adding a dash of Strawberry Green tea syrup to tangy lemon-poppyseed vinaigrettes), or balance out sour, bitter, and spicy notes in homemade pickles and sauces.
You can also use a tea-infused syrup to enhance flavors that are already present in food. For example, glazing your vegetables with a tea syrup before you bake them will help them brown, and add those characteristic toasty notes that come with caramelization by enhancing the Maillard reaction. I like pairing fruity tea syrups with vegetables that are naturally sweeter, such as carrots, but for more leafy or cruciferous greens such as broccoli, I prefer more citrusy or herbaceous tea syrups.
What about the meat of this post? It's true, tea-infused simple syrups pair more harmoniously with meat than I realized when I first started researching them. Syrups make excellent bases for marinades and glazes, so use them for those smaller cuts of meat you'd throw on the grill! Pork tenderloin pairs delightfully with a Peach Apricot black tea syrup, either with butter and sage, or with some soy sauce, garlic, and mustard seed. Want something more savory for your marinades and meat sauces? Our tried-and-true favorites are our smoky Lapsang Souchong or sweet and smoky Jamestown Gunpowder.
These are just a few ideas for paths you can take when exploring tea in cuisine, but hopefully, it's enough to get your mouth watering! Try experimenting with flavor combinations and see what you can cook up. And if you're looking for more fun ways to play with tea in the kitchen, check out Mai-Anh's blog posts on the basics of cooking with tea, as well as her recipe for "Cran-Brie en croute".