Entertaining is usually on the agenda for the weekend holiday and keeping yourself and guests well-fed and happy is a top priority. I like to experiment in the kitchen and keep guests pleasantly surprised with new treats I try. I love cold-weather beverages—coffee, tea, cider, hot chocolate—and I always have tea in my kitchen. Tea doesn’t have to be just for drinking—I was inspired to see where else I could make tea an ingredient.
Tea is delicious in baking—especially loose tea. Many of my richer teas—sweet peppermint, full-bodied hazelnut chocolate or cinnamony DepraviTea’s Chai Tea—are perfect to add in loose or brew and gradually add to the batter of scones, cupcakes or cookies. I like to brew about 1/3 of a cup of loose tea and not strain it, and add that in. Then the sweet treat is fully infused with the tea’s flavor.
Creative Cream Cheese & Butter
Taking the same cookie/tea idea, add a teaspoon of loose tea to about 3 teaspoons of water and let brew for 3–5 minutes, then let cool. Mix the strong tea into a block of softened cream cheese or a stick of butter. Let the infused butter or cream cheese sit for a half hour, blending with a spatula every so often, then smear onto your favorite bagel or onto bread or crackers.
ThinkGeek’s Sugar Daddy tea is the perfect blend of ginger, orange, hibiscus flowers and rose hips to combine with cream cheese or butter and smoothed over a sandwich thin or a light rye for a light snack or a tea appetizer. You could even get crazy and use those hidden-away cookie cutters for unique shapes to serve.
Tea Ice Cream
There was one weekend was it was really warm and I wanted an ice cream sandwich. Into Christine’s Test Kitchen I went and tried something on a whim, and was quite happy with the results. I had a packet of shortbread rounds, and I had a wonderful container of Blackthorn HooDoo Blends Gossip Stop tea, a gorgeous mellow blend of lemon balm, ginger root, peppermint, cinnamon bark and orange peels. I brewed a half-cup of tea, let it cool and mixed into a pint of vanilla ice cream, then placed the bowl in the freezer. After an hour I carefully scooped the lemony ice cream into the cookies and I was quite happy with my confectionery concoction.
Tea Drinks and Cocktails
Finding a new way to wet your whistle is always a challenge. I’m so over soda (unless I’m making it in my SodaStream) and drinking water nonstop can get repetitive. It’s time to perk up that palate!
Tea is perfect as an ingredient or base for a drink. Add honey, stevia or juices to a floral or herbal tea (called a tisane, with no actual tea leaves, but rather herbs) for a refreshing drink, or brew up Camellia sinensis (black tea) and add mint, lemon, coconut oil or milk.
Tea in cocktails is quite popular as well; add a shot of vodka or whiskey to a cup of tea. My favorite is the Hot Toddy—big cup of black tea, a shot of brandy, lemon and honey for a cough or cold (this isn’t medical advice, so check with your doc if need be for any medical ailment), but I like to sip on that when I’m feeling a bit under the weather. Whiskey and Earl Grey are a great pairing.
Tea isn’t just for sweets; I wanted to experiment with brewing tea then adding it to chicken or beef to marinate. I began with a smoky black tea (Lapsang souchong) and brewed a full cup of strong tea—two tablespoon of tea in a cup of boiling water—and let cool. I added two cut-up chicken breasts to a hot skillet and gradually added the tea, with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. I turned the chicken chunks til they were cooked all the way thru and most of the tea had been absorbed. I was very happy with this—the chicken had a delicious smoky flavor that wasn’t too overpowering. You can adjust the smoky flavor by brewing stronger or weaker teas. I also think a lemon or green tea would be perfect with chicken or fish, and black teas with beef or pork.
by Christine Tarlecki on December 18, 2014
This piece was written by me and ran in the Town Dish Winter 2014: http://www.thetowndish.com/2014/12/18/creativitea-5-unique-ways-use-tea-holiday-season/