The versatility of tea
Gail Baral and Robert Wain use tea, like a baker uses flour and butter. The ingredient is a staple in all of the recipes that they create for their catering business, Algabar. From tea-infused cocktails, to chicken salad sandwiches, cookies, and muffins, tea is one ingredient that elegantly flavors all of their offerings. Algabar (algabar.com ).
Tea-stained fabrics meet criteria for adding decoration with a worn, antique patina. For do-it-yourselfers, dying fabric with tea is an easy weekend project, but plenty of fabric manufacturers keep these distressed beauties in their inventories. This one is from Lee Jofa; leejofa.com
The laminated bucket tote from Anna Griffin organizes with style; annagriffin.com 
The properties of tea won't diminish when stored properly. These tea caddies, both from Theodore Alexander, not only protect the delicate tea leaves, but are pretty, too. The octagonal caddy (#1105-078) is inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and its lid is topped with a brass finial. The Georgian pear-shaped caddy (#1000-125) features a brass handle in the shape of a stem; theodorealexander.com .
For the past decade, coffee has been the beverage blockbuster, but tea is giving it a run for its money. Tea shops are popping up everywhere. The teapots above are housed on shelves at Gong Fu Tea in Des Moines, Iowa; gongfu-tea.com. Check out what's available in your local destination. Some of our favorites include Alice's Tea Cup (alicesteacup.com ), Lady Mendl's (innatirving.com ), and T Salon (tsalon.com ) in New York. In Los Angeles, we love Paddington's (paddingtonstearoom.com ).
Function is indeed important for a successful brew, but the endless variety of teapot styles available suite tastes from dainty to simple and shapely. From left: Yellow cast iron tea pot; Tea District (teadistrict.com ). "Magic Flute" porcelain teapot; Rosenthal. "Sunfish" stainless steel teapot; Nick Munro (nickmunro.com ). "Year of the Monkey: cast iron pot; Teavana (teavana.com ). "Stitch" cast iron pot; Teavana. "Sensation" Limoge porcelain teapot with metallic glaze; Haviland (haviland.com ).
The world of tea is no simple topic. Its complex varieties make having a guide at hand useful for the novice. This one, Harney & Sons Guide to Tea, yields a plethora of information (harneyandsons.com ). As delectable as the beverage itself, the tins and packaging used to sell tea are equally intriguing and beautiful. From back: Tea District, Portsmouth Tea Company (portsmouthtea.com ), Talbott Tea (talbottgourmetteas.com ), and Harney & Sons.
Cooking with Tea
Tea leaves add delicate herbal and floral notes to baked goods, sauces, marinades, and broths. The package description will tell you what characteristics to expect when you add tea leaves to your recipe. Usually, one tablespoon is enough to flavor the finished dish.
Brewed tea can be substituted for water in recipes with superb results. As a rule of thumb, substitute brewed tea for half the liquid in a recipe. (Try cooking jasmine rice in brewed tea.) Brew tea for cooking in slightly warm (not boiling) water to avoid bitterness.
These four recipes showcase tea as an ingredient in shortbread, pasta sauce, deviled egg, and sangria. Visit a tea shop or a natural food store for the best, freshest selection of tea leaves.
Green Tea Shortbread Wedges
These intriguingly beautiful cookies are made with emerald-hued matcha (Japanese green tea powder), ground from tea leaves. Matcha is sold by the ounce
- 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1-1/2 teaspoons matcha (green tea powder)
- 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
- 1/2 cup cold butter
- Green luster dust* (optional)
Preheat oven to 325°F. In medium bowl combine flour, sugar, matcha, and lemon peel. Using pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to cling. Form mixture into ball; knead until smooth.
To make shortbread wedges, place dough on ungreased cookie sheet; pat or roll dough into 8-inch circle. Carefully crimp the edge of the dough circle. Cut circle into 8 to 12 wedges. Do not separate wedges. Using rounded edge of candy or cookie mold, make leaf imprint in each wedge.
Bake in preheated oven 25 to 30 minutes or just until bottom of shortbread starts to brown and center is set. Cut circle into wedges again while warm. Let stand on cookie sheet 5 minutes. Transfer wedges to wire rack; let cool. Enhance leaf designs by lightly brushing leaf imprints with luster dust. Makes 8 to 12 wedges.
*Test Kitchen Tip: Look for luster dust in the cake- and cookie-decorating section of crafts stores.
To store: Place cookies in layers separated by waxed paper in airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months.
Golden Tea Sangria
This sangria is a refreshing aperitif or delightful brunch starter. Chardonnay, sparkling wine, sparkling water, or white grape juice will give the sangria varying degrees of sweetness and dryness. Choose the one that best suits your taste.
- 4 cups water
- 6 bags English breakfast tea
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 cups assorted fresh fruit (such as sliced oranges, lemons, peaches, or plums and/or halved grapes)
- 2 cups chardonnay, sparkling wine, sparkling water, or white grape juice
In medium saucepan, bring water to boil. Add tea bags; let steep 5 minutes. Remove tea bags. Add sugar, stirring until it dissolves. Stir in fruit and chardonnay. Serve in ice-filled tall glasses. Makes 6 servings.
Tea-Sauced Scallops with Orange and Honey
Keemun tea has a fruity aroma with hints of pine. This recipe works equally well with shrimp or fish. If using fish, choose firm-fleshed fillets such as bass or roughy; cut fillets into thumb-size pieces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1 pound sea scallops
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1 tablespoon Keemun tea leaves or other Chinese black tea leaves
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce or soy sauce
- 6 ounces Chinese egg noodles, rice noodles, or angel hair pasta
- Thinly sliced green onion
- Cilantro sprigs (optional)
Heat olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add minced garlic; cook and stir 30 seconds. Add scallops. Cook and stir 2 minutes or until scallops just turn opaque. Transfer scallops to small bowl; cover and keep warm.
Carefully pour orange juice into skillet, stirring to dislodge any particles adhering to pan. Add tea leaves; cook and stir mixture 30 seconds. Add honey, soy sauce, and any scallop liquid from bowl. Reduce heat; simmer 3 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly.
Cook Chinese noodles or pasta according to package directions. Drain; set aside.
Strain tea mixture through fine mesh sieve; return liquid to pan, discarding solids.
Transfer scallops from bowl to pan with slotted spoon; toss gently to coat with sauce. To serve, arrange noodles into nests on four warm dinner plates. Top with scallops and sauce. Garnish with green onion and cilantro sprigs. Makes 4 servings.
Thousand-Year-Old Deviled Eggs and Crab
This interesting combination of Chinese, Japanese, and Southern traditions is as delicious as it is attractive. The marble pattern intensifies the longer the shelled eggs are exposed to air.
- 6 eggs
- 6 Darjeeling or other black tea bags
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 6 ounces crabmeat, picked over and flaked
- 1/4 cup minced shallots
- 2 tablespoons minced pickled ginger
- Pinch powdered wasabi or dab wasabi paste
- 6 tablespoons mayonnaise, regular or reduced-fat
- 1/2 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
- Salt and ground white pepper
- Slices of pickled ginger, for garnish
- Chives, cut into 1-inch lengths, for garnish
Put eggs in saucepan; cover with water. Bring just to boil; reduce heat. Gently simmer 10 minutes. Remove eggs with slotted spoon; set aside. When cool enough to handle, gently roll eggs on counter to crack shells all over. Do not peel.
Meanwhile, bring 3 cups water to boil; add tea bags and soy sauce. Remove from heat; steep 5 minutes. Discard tea bags, squeezing to extract as much liquid as possible. Place eggs in liquid and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Refrigerate 6 hours or overnight in liquid.
Drain eggs, peel, and blot dry. Let stand, uncovered, at least 1 hour in refrigerator for marbled pattern to develop. Carefully cut eggs in half lengthwise. Remove and mash yolks. Combine yolks with crabmeat, shallots, and minced pickled ginger. Blend wasabi, mayonnaise, and vinegar together. Combine with crab mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Fill egg halves with rounded tablespoon of crab mixture. Top with a slice each of pickled ginger and chive. Store remaining crab mixture in refrigerator 1 to 2 days. Makes 12 deviled egg halves.