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Cooking With Tea
By Brooke Berlin
Teas are branching out. Green, black, oolong—they’re emerging from their silk sachets and iron teapots and plunging into the world of food. Along with exotic flavors, they bring with them an impressive brag sheet of antioxidant-powered health benefits.
Most recently in the limelight—green tea and its healing properties. In a 2006 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, for example, researchers examined the green-tea drinking habits of more than 1,000 seniors. They found that those who drank a cup or more a day had significantly better cognitive function than those who drank three cups or less a week.
Other research has found a link between green tea consumption and a lowered risk for cancers of the breast, stomach, colon, prostate, and skin. Don’t give up your black and oolong teas though. Clinical and population studies suggest strong antioxidants in these teas may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke—most likely by lowering cholesterol and oxidative damage to blood vessels.
While eating tea bestows similar health benefits as drinking it, perhaps the best reason to add it to your kitchen pantry may be the superb flavor and ingenuity tea brings to your culinary creations. Professional chefs have only scratched the surface of the flavor combinations possible, especially since cooking with tea is a relatively new concept in the culinary world. Just as chefs experiment with their dishes, so you can at home.
“This is the newest field of study for one of the oldest beverages in the world,” says Lenny Martinelli, owner of the Dushanbe Teahouse in Boulder, Colorado. He relishes the complexity and flavors tea infuses into a food, and indeed, with the many varieties available (like white, black, green, oolong, and puerh) and innumerable flavors, including everything from black ginger peach to green lemon ginger, the creative possibilities seem endless.
Reem Rahim, cocreator and owner of Numi Organic Tea, agrees: “You can substitute tea in a recipe anywhere it says water,” she says. She also cooks with sweet herbal tisanes (blends of herbs and flowers containing no tea leaves), often infusing milk or soy milk with them. For example, “honeybush is a complex herb with layers of flavors: light spice, depth, earthiness, and vanilla,” Rahim explains.
Along with tea leaves and tisanes, tea oil is also gaining popularity—its subtle, light texture has a slightly sweet finish. “It brings out the best flavor of the foods it’s served with and allows the flavor of the cuisine to shine through,” says Marideth Post, minister of enlightenment at The Republic of Tea.
To enter the “cooking with tea” world yourself, try one of these five basic methods:
Steeping involves immersing the tea leaves in hot water to produce a concentrate that you can use for sauces or broths. To make a concentrate with black tea, bring 2 cups of water to a boil (212 degrees), and steep 3 tablespoons of loose tea or at least two ...
Author: Brooke Berlin
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