Beyond the Boil: The Many Uses of Tea

February 3, 2019

Tea is arguably one of the most ancient beverages in the world. Warm cups of tea grace humble kitchen tables, family serving trays and elegant dining rooms across the globe. From the soil to the saucer, the journey of a single cup of tea is both intensely unique and, at the same time, the culmination of centuries of repetitive technique. The aroma of freshly brewed tea is enhanced by ancient traditions and bolstered by a sprinkling of nostalgia.

As traditional as a cup of tea is, don’t be mistaken - these humble leaves are extremely versatile, and tea enthusiasts are inventing new, innovative ways of utilizing tea every day. With thousands of varieties and endless preparation possibilities, tea is perhaps the most versatile commodity on the planet.

For all intents and purposes, tea is essentially an herb, so it makes sense that a delicious tea can be used to create delicious foods. The most obvious way to cook with tea is to simply replace water with tea. The key is pairing the tea with the dish. For example, a light green tea can be used in place of water when creating a light broth such as miso, whereas a rich, black tea can be used to rehydrate earthy foods such as mushrooms or to poach winter fruits. Cooking with tea is all about experimentation - try different pairings, record what tastes nice, and have fun!

Tea is such a versatile ingredient, that its uses go far beyond the stove top. The summer months in the UAE can be extreme, and on days when the temperature is boiling, cold brewing tea is a refreshing solution. Beyond beating the heat, cold brewing tea may have other benefits as well. Cold brewing is an incredibly simple technique. Simply add tea and water to a pitcher, and then leave to steep. Steep white or green tea for 6 to 8 hours; steep black or oolong tea for 8 to 12 hours. Cold brewed tea is smooth and subtle, and if you are aiming for quality sleep, cold brewed tea tends to have half to two-thirds of the caffeine of it's hot brewed counterpart.

With a fresh pitcher of cold brewed tea, the possibilities can go even further. Tea is an excellent addition to an array of innovative mocktails. For a refreshing twist on a summer tea party, simply freeze a spiced tea into ice cubes. Put the tea cubes into a short tumbler glass and pour over with milk as the tea cubes melt into the milk, the drink creates a rich visual swirl and a smooth, spiced iced tea. For another mocktail that is as big on fun as it is on flavour, bubbles are the trick. For this tea-based beverage, cold brew a fragrant jasmine tea. Mix the flowery concoction with simple syrup to taste, and finish with soda water or tonic to balance the flavours. Serve on ice with fresh strawberries or raspberries in the bottom of the glass.

While tea may have a history stretching back thousands of years, its uses are hardly confined to only boiling water. From the stove top to an elegant summer party, the uses of this versatile ingredient are endless.