A lovely woman who produces a food radio program telephoned me recently to set up an interview about my ‘new’ book on cooking with green tea. She caught me off guard because I don’t have a new book on cooking with green tea. Then I realized she was referring to a book that I wrote in 2006 titled: Green Tea: 50 Hot Drinks, Cool Quenchers and Sweet and Savory Treats ( Harvard Common Press, 2006).
We got it straightened out, had a laugh, and fortunately she still wanted to have the interview.
After this, I started to think about my book and the idea of cooking with tea. Back in 2006, cooking with tea or using tea as in ingredient in cooking and baking was an unfamiliar concept here in the US, and it did not resonate with most. Its not that it wasn’t a good idea – it was and still is a great idea – but only a few short years ago the conversation about tea was vastly different than it is today.
Back then, tea drinking had not yet reached the widespread popularity that it has now, and education about premium tea from traditional places of origin was still in its infancy. Spreading the word about the different classes of tea (green, white, yellow, oolong, black and Pu-erh) was challenging for those of us in the tea business as black tea was the most commonly drunk tea at that time, and the only tea that many people were familiar with.
Fortunately, my book sold well and is still in print –yea!- but I have come to realize that the subject of cooking with tea ( and my book ) was ahead of its time. For Green Tea I developed original recipes in these categories: hot and iced green teas, smoothies, green tea cocktails, savory dishes and sweet endings, and often when I would describe to someone back then what my book was about they would look at me as if I had holes in my head.
In fact, even in Taiwan, where I gave a presentation at an annual tea meeting to a room full of tea growers on the idea of cooking with tea, and where there are dishes that utilize oolong tea in the preparation, many there looked at me as if I had holes in my head, too.
But today, just five years later, the idea of cooking with tea, or using tea as a culinary ingredient, has caught on. Not like wildfire, but with enough traction to be included in various tea conversations and for others to pursue the topic.
Cynthia Gold, the Tea Sommelier at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, has co-authored a book with Lise Stern titled: Culinary Tea: More Than 150 Recipes Steeped in Tradition from Around the World ( Running Press, 2010). This delightful book explores the concept in depth, and provides much guidance for those looking to experiment with all classes of tea in their cooking.
Some restaurants, too, feature tea as an ingredient in various savory dishes and cocktails. Green tea in particular is showing up pretty regularly in sweets and desserts. But I fear such desserts will suffer from over-exposure and incompetent hands, and become culinary outcasts in the same vein as tiramisu, molten chocolate cake, and anything kiwi.
I am reprinting (with permission of my publisher) one of my favorite cocktail recipes from Green Tea: 50 Hot Drinks, Cool Quenchers and Sweet and Savory Treats.
( serves 2 )
- 12 ice cubes
- 3 ounces chilled green tea
- 1 cup chilled pomegranate juice
- 3 ounces gin
- 1 tablespoon amaretto
- Maraschino cherries, lemon wedges and orange wedges for garnish
1. Put 4 ice cubes, the green tea, pomegranate juice, gin, and amaretto into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 1 minute.
2. Divide the remaining 8 ice cubes between 2 old-fashioned glasses. Make a skewer for each glass by threading 1 cherry, 1 lemon wedge, and 1 orange wedge onto a decorative cocktail pick. Strain the cocktail into the glasses and drape a fruit skewer across the top of each glass. Serve immediately.