Clever Ideas for Cooking with Tea

We all know how delicious Nerada’s plantation-fresh black teas and organic herbal infusions are to drink on their own or accompanying everything from cakes and biscuits to dim sum and Peking duck. But did you know that tea – in all its forms – is great to cook with, too? Find out how to become a different kind of masterchef – or maybe we should call it a ‘master-tea-chef’ – as we take a look at the myriad ways that tea can be used as a culinary ingredient.

Baking with tea
You’ll find numerous recipes for cakes, biscuits, slices and more that feature tea as a flavouring. It’s simply a matter of matching the flavour to what else is in the recipe. Just grind your leaves finely using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder if you’re using it dry, or brew the tea and add it with your other liquid ingredients.

Imagine, for instance, baking up a batch of biscuits or scones with the addition of a teaspoonful of ground Australian Tea with Lemon Myrtle to add a uniquely Aussie flavour – perfect for an Australia Day celebration.

Or turn those homemade muffins into something elegant with some fragrant Australian Earl Grey Tea. You could turn a standard chocolate cake recipe into a twist on the good-old mint-slice by adding a teaspoon of ground peppermint tea to the dry ingredients.

And of course, no self-respecting baker could resist the addition of a splash of freshly brewed black tea to their family heirloom Christmas cake or fruit mince recipe to give them extra richness and depth of flavour. You could soak the dried fruit in it, too, for those who prefer their Christmas treats non-alcoholic!

Tea infusions
Try infusing milk, cream or jelly mixes with your choice of tea to impart a delicate flavour to sauces, ice-creams, custards and other desserts. Soaking the sponge for a trifle with your choice of herbal infusion adds real wow factor, particularly if you use Nerada’s smooth and delicate Rooibos & Vanilla. In fact, drizzling a tea-based syrup of your choice over any plain cake will really take it to the next level. Simply make a tea-flavoured sugar syrup (in a ratio of equal parts sugar dissolved in brewed tea).

For something different, why not try adding an exotic note to a summer ice-cream with an infusion of Chai Tea. You don’t even need to make the ice-cream from scratch – simply let some store-bought vanilla ice-cream soften a little, then stir through the cooled infusion and refreeze for a simple but stylish accompaniment to cardamom-poached peaches. In fact, why not poach fruit in a syrup made with a tea or herbal infusion of your choice – pears in Australian Tea with Smooth Vanilla, for example.

You can also make flavoured oils for cooking or drizzling over salads – and a bottle of tea-scented olive oil makes a lovely gift for foodie friends.

Tea-smoked foods
Smoking all manner of foods is now becoming more and more popular, and it’s very simple to do it at home, even without any special equipment. Using tea as a smoking flavour is so easy and takes all kinds of ingredients to the next level.

Tea-smoking fish or poultry is a classic Chinese method of imparting flavour, and works beautifully on your stovetop. Choose Green Tea, Earl Grey, jasmine or black tea, then add extra flavour-pizazz if you like, with spices such as star anise, cinnamon sticks and mandarin or lemon peel.

Tea marinades and rubs
There’s a world of experimentation to be discovered when using tea as a marinade or seasoning, or even to flavour butter for melting over grilled fish, seafood, meat or chicken – or slather on scones.

Particularly good when you’re slow-cooking meats in the oven or on the barbecue, certain combinations will add an extra layer of warm, smoky flavour and aroma. Try grinding some black tea leaves and combining them with, say, brown sugar, salt and pepper and some crushed garlic, and rubbing the mixture all over the meat before cooking.

Or make up a marinade to brush over an Asian-style fish, chicken or tofu by infusing your choice of tea – from delicate green tea to a more robust, smoky lapsang souchong – and combining it with your chosen spices and oil.

Tea-based cocktails
Long Island Iced Tea may not actually contain any tea – its colour comes, in fact, from a splash of cola – but there are plenty of great cocktails that do. The only rule here is that there are no rules. Except one – remember to brew or infuse your chosen tea and make sure it’s well chilled before using it.

For keen mixologists, there are countless tea infusions waiting to be experimented with for creating unique blends, shakes and stirs, Earl Grey being among the most popular. Bergamot Kiss, anyone?

So, when you’re next reaching for the herbs and spices, remember that there’s a brave new world of recipes to try using your favourite tea leaves, too.