The ancient Chinese have been cooking with tea for as long as they have been drinking it, yet tea is something used very little in Western cooking, despite the amount we drink.
In the past the Chinese would use dried oolong leaves to stuff fish before steaming, or add tea leaves to the fire when smoking duck. They'd also add it to the water when boiling eggs, cracking the shells in the final few minutes so the tea seeped through, creating a marbled effect.
Tea can be used in a wide range of modern day recipes, from meals, to cakes, to cocktails:
Green tea leaves can add a fragrant kick to a wide range of meals, particularly seafood and salads. Dragonwell is commonly added to chicken stir fries for a grassy punch.
Green teas are also great for use in baking; a finely ground green tea powder will not only add fantastic flavour to your cakes and loaves, but turn it an impressive shade of green too.
If just a hint of tea is desired, try melting butter with tea leaves, allow the hot mixture to stand for a few minutes to infuse, then sieve out the leaves and chill the butter. This tea-flavoured butter can then be used in your favourite recipes.
Dried black tea leaves can be used to create a crunchy rub to coat fish, meat or poultry. Alternatively they can be used as an impressive garnish.
Rather than simply using the leaves, brewed tea can be used in a wide variety of recipes. It adds a unique flavour to braising liquids, marinades or sauces, for example. Soaking fruit in tea is a common trick used by bakers to create a moist fruitcake. If you are going to use brewed tea for cooking or baking it's important to steep it slightly differently. The simplest way is to pour cold water over the leaves and allow them to brew at room temperature for half an hour or so. This will guarantee neither excessive astringency nor bitterness. If you are short on time, use water off the boil and steep for just a few minutes.
There are endless opportunities when it comes to cooking with tea, experimenting and creating new recipes with your favourite tea is all part of the experience.