Cooking with Tea


Green Tea Granola- it’s not exactly what you might think of when cooking with tea.

Cooking with tea might conjure up thoughts and notions of Tea Smoked Duck. While I’m a fan of this delicacy, there are so many other variations of how to cook with tea. Robert Wemischner wrote a cookbook on it that made its way into my cookbook collection years ago. I met Eric Gower over a mutual love of Japanese green tea at the Expo West tradeshow a while back and his recent recipes in Sunset Magazine show me he is still very much enthralled with tea. Local chef Daniel Patterson recently featured several of his tea recipes in an issue of Bon Appetit including a recipe for Matcha & Pistachio Crusted Halibut that had us practically licking the parchment paper.

When meeting someone who’s an avid tea drinker, I find we share a certain passion for the act and art of tea. Gale Gand and I found ourselves chatting happily about the joys of single estate teas at a Common Threads event a while back. I seriously lament never taking James Norwood Pratt up on his offer of a tea tour in San Francisco though we did share a conversation about tea at a Specialty Coffee show reception years ago that kept me riveted. Local mixologist and one of the guys behind Encanto Pisco and Cantina, Duggan McDonnell and I quickly found ourselves chummy when talking about tea and the art of infusing it into cocktails. He is not alone, Chicago mixologist Adam Seger has been known to play with tea in his signature cocktails. He mixed one mean tea cocktail at Nacional 27, when I visited his restaurant a few years ago.

After water, tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world. Tea is not something you quickly guzzle- it requires much of you. Years of working with tea only deepened my appreciation for all of the people involved- all of the hands cultivating, picking, and blending it. A cup of tea truly is a communal experience.

India, China, Sri Lanka, Africa and Japan are all known for their tea cultivation. As of 2008, only two farms in the United States cultivate tea leaves. Our climate and environment is not one in which tea grows well or easily. The World Tea Expo meets yearly to bring together tea purveyors and tea lovers to cup and discuss, to connect and discover single estate teas or unique blends. Similar to the way wine drinkers consider terroir, the soil, air, climate and environs, each contributes to the specific flavors you find when drinking Camellia Sinensis leaves. I would sometimes marvel at seeing premium tea leaves rolled tightly and wondering about the person who hand-rolled them. The amount of people-work involved behind the scenes can sometimes be staggering and definitely makes part of my tea drinking experience one of gratitude.

So let’s you and I think outside of the tea cup and consider all of the other ways that tea can be used to enhance your food and dining experience. During upcoming weeks I will be playing with tea and encouraging you to as well.

For a snack idea that’s good to the grain, try this recipe for Green Tea Granola.

It may seem anathema to a tea purist to consider cooking with Gyokuro tea. I’m not going to lie, this is one fine, expensive tea. The color of the leaves resembles a greenish blue hue and the leaves are typically hand-picked. It is considered an exquisite tea in Japan and deserves to be paid its homage as a treat. If you’re looking for more of an everyday drinking tea, I’m going to suggest emailing me offline for recommendations because this is not it unless you have a deep pocketbook. That said, I was known to keep a small collection of it at my desk and in the afternoons, I would pull out my stash, pinch a few leaves and place them directly into my mouth, foregoing the tea cup. From there I would chew the crunchy leaves and let the tannins hit my palate as I picked up that slight walnut flavor that made me a fast fan of Gyokuro. Since the flavor profile bears a slight walnut flavor, it wasn’t a far leap to bake broken leaves into shortbread with walnuts and then infuse the sweetened oil to stir into oats.

Gyokuro Walnut Tea Shortbread

If you would prefer to brew up a cuppa, this green tea typically only should brew for 2 minutes at a less hot heat in the 140-160 degree range as you do not want the water to burn the leaves or let them steep too long where the tannins would be more pronounced equating on the palate to a bitter taste. Whatever you decide, you will not want to miss next week’s morsel as we explore a different type of green tea.

gyokuro green tea


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