Notes from the Kitchen

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


Sharing our Strength Spirit

Menagerie of Tea Shortbread & Japan Relief Support

Menagerie of Tea Shortbread

See these beauties? They can be yours!

On Wednesday, March 30th and for one day only, you can bid on them over at the Online Bake Sale for Japan where all of the proceeds from this one day online auction are going to benefit Second Harvest Japan. I will bake & ship them well wrapped for freshness to the bidder (US only).

I’m putting my baking chops to aid and do a small part to support relief in that beleaguered country.

If you bid on my tea shortbread, here’s what you will get. Drumroll, please…

  • 1/2 dozen Lapsang Souchong Peppered Bacon Shortbread
  • 1/2 dozen Matcha Chipped Chocolate Shortbread
  • 1/2 dozen Rooibos Clementine Shortbread
  • 1/2 dozen Spiced Chai Shortbread
  • 1/2 dozen Gyokuro Walnut Shortbread

See below for a description of each flavor.

Lapsang Souchong Peppered Bacon Shortbread
This Chinese black tea is smoked over fir tree root and a favorite of chefs to add smoke to their duck dishes. It lends a smoky note to black pepper flecked bacon bits in this rich almost savory take on a shortbread.

Lapsang Souchong Peppered Bacon Tea Shortbread


Matcha Chipped Chocolate Shortbread
Matcha, a beloved tea of Japan is green tea that’s actually pulverized with deep earthy notes. Paired with chipped dark Scharffen Berger chocolate, this is one decadent cookie.

Matcha Chipped Chocolate Tea Shortbread


Rooibos Clementine Shortbread
Initially, this was going to be Rooibos Yuzu, but I became enamored of the idea of the naturally honeyed notes of rooibos playing with the bright citrus of the clementine and thus, this marbled cookie was meant to be. Rooibos hails from South Africa and this herbal “tea” means “red bush,” aptly named for its color and relaxing elixir.

Rooibos Clementine Tea Shortbread


Spiced Chai Shortbread
I’m a sucker for a spiced tea, so a spiced tea cookie- what could be better. I used an English Breakfast tea as the base for this one and had my way with ginger, cardamom, cinnamon and a few cracks of finely ground pepper. Spicy and sweet!

Spiced Chai Tea Shortbread


Gyokuro Walnut Shortbread
This might be my favorite of the bunch. Gyokuro could be considered the royalty of Japanese green tea. The green leaves have a bluish tint to them and a nutty flavor that is particularly noticeable when paired with the walnuts. A refined tea, this commemorative collection would be remiss without them.

Gyokuro Walnut Tea Shortbread

So what are you waiting for? Get to it and start bidding over at the Online Bake Sale for Japan hosted by the Tomato Tart. After all, doesn’t it feel sweet to give money to a good cause and reap the sweet benefits of solidarity?

These guys are waiting for a good home…

tea shortbread