TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

November 29, 2007

Ramblings: Cooking with tea

Filed under: food,tea,tea recipes,Tea sites — by teaguide @ 5:24 pm

Tips and recipes for cooking and baking with tea

CTC RecipesMany years ago, our old Italian neighbour gave me one of the best pieces of cooking advice I’ve ever received: She told me that I should never cook with water if I could possibly avoid it.

Of course she didn’t mean never to cook with liquids — just that I should use some liquid other than water, to improve both the taste and texture of whatever I was preparing.

Although it’s not always possible to substitute for plain old water, I did take her advice (she was a smashing good cook!) and generally try to come up with alternative liquids whenever I’m cooking or baking.

The obvious choices for savoury cooking are broth and tomato or mixed vegetable juice. With sweet dishes I’ve dabbled in various types of fruit juices, milks, and on one or two occasions even gave soda pop a go (highly not recommended except in the punch bowl!).

Blue Willow TeapotWhen I “discovered” tea as a cooking and baking ingredient my whole life changed. Okay, maybe not my whole life, but certainly my whole culinary repertoire.

At my Cat-Tea Corner website, which features a 400-plus recipe collection, there’s a good-sized section for Cooking with tea and teatime treats. You’re invited to take a look, browse through, choose a recipe or two, and give it a go in your own kitchen.

You’ll also find some general tips for incorporating tea into your own dishes. Here are a few more that I’ve developed after experimenting with the original recipes, which have been published over the past ten years:

  • If you’re cooking rice for a Mexican/Spanish rice dish, try using Lapsang Souchong tea for part of the liquid to add a smoked flavour. Works with millet, too. (Actually a lot of savoury dishes, including soups, are enhanced with LS’s smokiness. But if it comprises more than a third of the required liquid it may overpower the rest of the dish, so don’t overdo it.)
  • Over the years I’ve used a number of teas for holiday cranberry sauce. Formosa oolong, with its inherent spiced/baked peach quality, works really well. But even better was the tea I used this year: Fortnum & Mason’s Wild Strawberry. Now that was some good cranberry sauce!
  • Cold Sesame Noodles are good with black tea, but a non-grassy green tea (Gunpowder, for example) and a “neutral” type of dark-roasted oolong (like Ti Kuan Yin) are also excellent.
  • When strawberries are in season, puree a pint or two (sweeten to taste if necessary) and freeze the puree in ice cube trays. Once frozen, transfer the “strawberry cubes” to a plastic bag or container. Keep them in the freezer and drop one or two into your glass of iced tea. Adds a nice flavour but doesn’t water down the tea like … well, water ice! (Good in lemonade, too.)
  • If you’re baking a cake from a mix, always substitute tea for at least part of the liquid. The lighter the cake, the lighter the tea you should use. For a white cake, for example, use white tea (that was kind of a no-brainer, huh?); for yellow cake try a second-flush Darjeeling or a Nilgiri; and maybe a rich Assam or Breakfast Blend for chocolate cakes. For spice cake or apple cake? I’d go with chai!

Got a good tip for cooking or baking with tea? Want to share it with other readers? Send it as a Comment using the form below.

Whether it’s in your cup or on your plate, happy tea-ing!

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November 2, 2007

Ramblings and reviews: Favourites

Filed under: food,tea,tea accessories,tea books,tea cosies,tea gifts,teapots — by teaguide @ 3:34 pm

Favourite vendors of teas and accessories
Retail and wholesale

tea gardenShortly after I started this Reviews and Ramblings website I was contacted by several people who wanted to know which are my favourite suppliers of teas, teapots, etc. At the moment I’m testing and sampling a few products but haven’t finished, so I have the time to accommodate these requests before starting new reviews. (I guess this is the rambling part of this site …)

kyusuFor what it’s worth, here are my current faves. My choices may change over time. There are a lot of good vendors of teas and tea paraphernalia. There are also, unfortunately, a lot of not-so-good ones. I much prefer to deal with people who truly love tea and figured out a way to make a living at it than with people who truly love money and figured out that tea is “hot” and jumped on the trend bandwagon — these latter are people who have no souls, and I think their teas reflect that lack.

My three top all-time tea sources (in the order in which I “discovered” them) are Harney & Sons, Simpson & Vail, and Capital Tea. The reasons are simple: their teas are of the highest quality, they offer good variety, their prices are reasonable, shipping is speedy, and they are run by people who know and love tea and have been in the tea business for a long time.

camellia sinensisBeyond that, I credit John Harney for teaching me to appreciate Darjeelings; Joan at Simpson & Vail for showing me the best way to steep white teas; and Joel at Capital Tea for his ability to recommend teas that he knows will suit my tastes (and I just adore those black sacks carefully nestled into bright red tissue paper!). The Harneys, the Harrons, and Joel are simply a pleasure to talk to, to learn from, and to do business with. I consider myself fortunate to have found all of them.

Here, in no particular order except as I happen to think of them, are some of my other favourite tea and tea ware resources:

Camellia Sinensis — Kevin Gascoyne, formerly of Kyela Teas, is arguably the most knowledgeable Darjeeling tea man. His annual visits to India yield some of the best teas I’ve ever tasted. Kevin taught me to better appreciate the nuances of different types of Darjeeling teas, and his guidance through the joys of tea-tasting quite literally made my husband a tea drinker.

Tea Centre of Stockholm — Although I’ve never been there (phooey), Amanda Hemmingsson provides excellent and gracious service. This is where we get my husband’s favourite tea, Soderblandning, and one of my favourite teas, Grusinien, among many others. Always very good quality. I look forward to one day meeting Amanda in person and sampling a few more of Tea Centre’s teas, especially the ones that cannot be shipped to the USA.

Stash Tea — Surprised ya, huh? Well, before you start scratching your head, let me make it clear that I’m not a big fan of Stash teas. Tried several and was somewhat disappointed with quality. I’ve heard that their newest teas are much better than they used to be, but I’m not quite ready to try them again. What I do like about Stash is their selection of teapots, teacups, and tea sets. I always find wonderful gifts for friends, and there’s always something Stash on my Xmas Want List (and usually in my stocking as well). The catalogue is very lush, but check out their website for some excellent close-out items.

Chinese Teapot Gallery Tea Culture — Apparently this guy sells on eBay only, but he does a lot of store and Buy it Now sales in addition to auctions. This is probably the best online resource for good quality and reasonably priced Yixing (clay) tea ware. Teapots run the gamut from inexpensive little cuties to artisan and vintage pots. He’s also got everything else you might need: tea sinks, jars, warmers, tea ceremony equipage, washing bowls, gaiwans — you name it, it’s more than likely here. Nice selection of tea sets that make great gifts for tea gong-fu newbies, and some beautiful glassware. Definitely worth a look-see.

I’ll be adding to this list periodically whenever I deem a supplier worthy of inclusion!

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