Adding coffee in desserts and even meat rubs and marinades is nothing new, but what about that other ubiquitous hot beverage, tea? It was a culinary epiphany when we heard that Singaporean TWG Tea Company created a menu of tea-based baked goods like macarons and as well as savory dishes like roasted fillet of cod with an apricot tea sauce or a basil marinara with an herby infusion of mint tea. Think of the range of flavors found in tea that could be used as an alternate way to season food — the heady spice of chai, the smokiness of Ceylon black teas, the rich bergamot of Earl Grey. And it even has a name: tea gastronomy.
With a stint at major French tea company Mariage Frères, TWG's executive pastry chef Phillipe Langlois has mastered the art of cooking with tea which has become his signature technique. This innovative approach appealed to him because, he says, it was a challenge. It's always changing and evolving as new blends and new single-estate teas hit the market, allowing him to constantly innovate and incorporate new flavors and textures. Like wine and coffee, tea is very much about its terroir, whether a first flush Darjeeling harvested in the Himalayas or black tea from the volcanic soil of Queensland, Australia.
A look through the vast offerings of TWG's teas sparks inspiration for a variety of recipes, like using the Genmaicha Japanese green tea blended with roasted and popped rice in a marinade for tofu satay or a traditional Chinese tea-smoked duck instead made with the Midsummer Night Tea, a black tea with hints of malty chocolate and spicy mint. According to Langlois, to create a tea-infused dessert, choose certain teas based on their prominent aromas and flavors and use them to balance a strong flavor in a pastry or tart, like how the Japanese matcha balances out the rich complexity of almond in Langlois' recipe for Matcha Financiers.
Incorporate tea into a recipe either by brewing it first, which will add very subtle flavor, or using the loose tea or finely ground tea powder for a stronger taste. Experiment with different flavors and methods, like steeping a couple tea bags in vegetable soup stock or whisking tea powder into a viniagrette for a salad. It's a simple, inexpensive way to introduce new seasonings into your repertoire.