Thursday, February 28, 2008

More on Cooking with Tea

The Arizona Republic recently published an article on cooking trends with tea. Here's an excerpt:

Tea flavors range through floral, earthy, grassy, astringent, clean and brisk, and deep and hearty.

Modern-day applications for cooking with tea are surprisingly similar to those of the ancient Chinese, who stuffed fish with dried, pungent oolong leaves before steaming, and infused boiling water while boiling eggs.

Both tea leaves and brewed tea can be used in cooking. Dried leaves work best as a flavorful rub for fish, poultry, pork and beef. Use only loose tea leaves, not the finely crushed (and less flavorful) contents of brewing bags.

Agreed. However, I had to disagree with the next statement:

"Treat tea like you would any other ingredient. Go for quality, the best you can afford, because quality matters," (Charlie) Romano (vegan-organic chef at the Mandala Tea Room in Scottsdale) said.

To a point, this statement is true. However, beyond that point it absolutely does not apply. One should NEVER waste a delicate white tea or a decadently complex aged pu-erh (some of the most expensive teas you can buy) by adulterating it with any other ingredients (or treating it as an ingredient alongside anything but pure water). It would be absurd. Some of the best teas are meant for tea and tea alone (unless of course you want to infuse the tea multiple times and then make it into chagra for other uses).

I digress. Tea has an enormous potential as a culinary ingredient. I've previously written about making vegan green tea ice cream and posted a listing of tea recipes. In addition to health benefits and a fantastic range of flavors, tea may provide another perk: it may act as a natural preservative. This article pertains to meat preservation in particular, but I have heard from many sources (including the owner of NYC's own Amai Tea & Bake House) that tea acts as a preservative in baked goods as well. This is great news for those seeking natural (and even organic) alternatives to conventional preservatives. As a young city-dweller who loves baking, I find this to be particularly useful, as I no longer have to pick between letting baked goods go bad, force-feeding them to my roommate, and spending days at a time at the gym. :)

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