Turning over a new leaf: learning to cook with tea

Earl Grey Tea Pear Galette with Earl Grey Tea Whipped Cream

Fall invites us to seek warmth from the oven and celebrate the steam rising from the tea kettle spout. We gravitate toward flavors that are comforting and richer in flavor. But before you reach for your stalwart spices, step back and turn toward your teacup shelf to find a spice that’s been there all along. Often reserved for the cup, tea can perform well beyond its solo act in your morning routine (maybe with a brief appearance of milk and honey). With an array of flavors tucked into each leaf, the adventure of cooking with tea knows no bounds.

But before you head to your cupboard and reach for your favorite steep, there are some ground rules to follow for the best tea-infused treats. First, always use good tea. What does that mean? Fresh, whole-leaf tea that’s bursting with flavors, not the dust often used in the teabags from the grocery store with which we are all familiar. Low-grade, finely cut tea dust will impart a flavor that is flat, one-note, and stale. Imagine cutting an apple into small pieces and leaving it on your counter to brown, dry up, and lose flavor (akin to conventional bagged tea). Now imagine a fresh apple from a farmers’ market that is juicy and full of distinctly unique flavor (think tart Granny Smith to sweet honey crisp, etc.). That flavor sensation is what you will experience with fresh, whole-leaf tea from trusted sources. Quality counts, so be sure to seek it out at a local tea shop or premium grocery store, where options are improving each day.

Camera icon Alexis Siemons
Lapsang souchong tea-smoked pickled cauliflower

Next in the rule book are temperature and time. Whether you are steeping a cup to sip or mixing tea into your favorite dish, the way in which the tea is treated will reward you in the end. A prime example is a delicate green tea that needs to be steeped in water well under boiling so as to not burn the leaves and extract a bitter flavor. Time follows the same notion. If you oversteep your tea, the flavor will not be stronger but rather too tannic and with an unpleasant astringency. Keep in mind that there is more leeway when cooking with tea since there are so many additional flavors. But the rule should still be loosely observed for the most delicious outcome.

Now that we have covered the basics, let’s push aside the concept that cooking with tea is complicated. It can be as simple as replacing flavorless water with steeped tea when cooking grains, or infusing milk with tea in  recipes that call for dairy. Start there. With the recipes featured here, you will flex your culinary muscles a bit more. But begin where you are comfortable, such as sipping your way through teas to identify your favorite flavors. Try pairing teas with nibbles and bites of ingredients to see what sparks your taste buds.

Camera icon Alexis Siemons
Hojicha tea miso honey butter chicken.

Just like your trusted spices, tea can play many roles in the dishes you create in your kitchen. Tea can enhance a dish and quietly balance flavors without being the shining star (like in the hojicha green tea miso honey butter roasted chicken recipe). And with a recipe like lapsang souchong black tea pickled cauliflower, the tea can proudly bellow its name and grandly announce its inherent smoky nature. The classic bold and bright notes of zesty Earl Grey tea adds a bright finish to this Pear Galette recipe.  Infused in three ways, you’ll find the tea in the crust, the glaze and the whipped cream.

Similar to your spice routine, some teas will have more of a pronounced flavor and astringency than others (think bold black tea over a delicate green). So you will always want to consider how you might increase or decrease the quantity of the tea, water temperature and steep time to properly infuse the tea.

May this steeped journey open your eyes to possibilities of tea leaves both in your cup and on your plate. And as you patiently wait for the cauliflower to pickle, chicken to roast, and galette to bake, you can brew yourself a cup of tea and drink in the autumn season.

Alexis Siemons is a tea consultant, writer and teacher. Visit her website, www.teaspoonsandpetals.com.

Note: Hojicha green tea can be purchased at La Colombe cafes and on through the company’s website. Lapsang souchong tea and Earl Grey tea is available for purchase at Premium Steap locations and on its website.










Earl Grey Pear Galette & Whipped Cream

Makes 8-10 servings


For the crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon Earl Grey tea (to be steeped in water)
1 teaspoon Earl Grey tea (for dry dough mix)
For the filling:
4 semi-firm pears (Bartlett recommended)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter cut into small pieces
For the tea glaze:
½ cup sugar
5 ounces water
1 teaspoon Earl Grey Tea
For the tea whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons Earl Grey Tea
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


1.  Make the Crust: Heat 1/3 cup water to 212 degrees and steep 1 teaspoons of the Earl Grey tea for 4 minutes. Strain the tea leaves and discard. Place steeped tea in freezer until ice cold. Add the remainder of Earl Grey tea (1 teaspoon), flour, sugar, salt to a food processor and pulse to break up tea and combine ingredients. Add the cold butter and pulse for 5 seconds until texture is sandy and butter is shape of peas. Slowly drizzle in chilled tea 1 teaspoon at a time and pulse until the dough just holds together (approx. 10 seconds) Note that you may not need to use all the chilled tea. Gather dough and roll into a ball. Flatten into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2. Make the Tea Whipped Cream: Add the cream to a small pot over medium heat and stir in sugar and vanilla. Heat to a simmer and stir in the tea. Reduce the heat to low and stir for 3 minutes. Remove the pot from the burner, cover, and let the tea steep for 30 minutes. Strain out tea leaves and chill in the refrigerator until completely cold. Place a large mixing bowl and metal whisk in freezer.

3. Make The Filling and Glaze: Place oven rack in middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and core the pears. Slice into ¼ inch thick pieces. While the dough chills, make the tea glaze. Heat 5 ounces of water to 212 degrees. Pour over tea leaves and steep for 4 minutes. Strain into a small saucepan and discard the leaves. Stir in the sugar and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 3 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Let completely cool so that the consistency is syrupy.

4. Finish the Galette: Place one piece of parchment paper (as least 13 inches long) on counter and dust with flour. Place dough disc in the center of the parchment paper and dust the dough with flower. Cover with another piece of parchment paper and roll into a 13-inch circle. Remove the top piece of parchment paper. Arrange sliced pears in overlapping rows on the dough within 1.5 inches of the edge. Evenly sprinkle the sugar over the pears and dot with butter. Fold the dough over the pears. Carefully lift parchment paper and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until pears are tender. Rotate the pan every 15 minutes for even cooking. Remove the galette from the oven and slide it onto a cooling rack. Let cool for 15 minutes.

5. As the galette cools, finish the tea whipped cream. When the tea infused cream is completely chilled, add the cream to the chilled bowl and whip with a whisk or electric mixer until the cream has soft peaks. Do not overmix. Once the galette has cooled, brush the glaze over the tart and serve (note: you will not use all the glaze. Use remainder to sweeten iced tea). Dollop whipped cream on each piece of the galette and serve.

6. Optional: Dust with powdered sugar.

— From Alexis Siemons

Per serving (based on 10): 313 calories, 3 grams protein, 39 grams carbohydrates, 20 grams sugar, 17 grams fat, 50 milligrams cholesterol, 154 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.

Hojicha Green Tea Honey Miso Butter Chicken Thighs

Makes 2-4 servings


5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 teaspoons hojicha green tea
2 1/2 tablespoons white miso paste
1 tablespoon honey
4 chicken thighs, bone in skin on
5 cloves of garlic (unpeeled)
1 lemon


1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add hojicha green tea to a spice grinder or food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Add the softened butter to small bowl and mash and whip with a fork until it's light and smooth. Stir in the coarsely ground tea leaves and mix until evenly distributed. Stir in the miso and honey and mix until combined.

2. Using a paper towel, pat the chicken thighs until dry. Gently run your fingers underneath the skin to separate from the chicken to create a pocket. Using your fingers, place 1 tablespoon of the tea miso honey butter and gently spread to coat the chicken. Repeat with each thigh. Spread the remainder of the tea miso honey butter on top of the skin, creating a thin even coating.

3. Cover a baking sheet in foil and place chicken thighs on the foil. Tuck the garlic cloves next to each thigh. Bake for 35 minutes until deeply brown and slightly charred. Remove from the oven and place chicken thighs on a serving platter. Remove garlic from the baking sheet and squeeze roasted garlic paste into a small bowl. Mash the garlic into a paste. Pour the buttery pan drippings into a bowl and mix to combine. Add a splash of lemon juice to taste and spoon on the bottom of the platter with chicken (note pouring on top will wet the chicken and make it less crisp). Serve immediately.

Note: Hojicha is a roasted Japanese green tea with flavors reminiscent of toasted barley, sesame and amber caramel. The nutty earthy notes of this tea enhance the roasted nature of this dish, while balancing creamy butter, savory miso paste and sweet honey. Make a double batch and save half to use on toast for an afternoon tea treat (with a steeped cup of hojicha, of course). Note that tea butters are a wonderful way to begin your steeped journey with a variety of teas-(think of all of the delicious possibilities beyond toast: melted over popcorn, as a base for roasted vegetables, etc. Or opt for a sweet and spicy route with a masala chai butter with a bit more honey added in).

Per serving (based on 4): 332 calories, 18 grams protein, 10 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams sugar, 25 grams fat, 95 milligrams cholesterol, 552 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.

Lapsang Souchong Smoked Black Tea Turmeric Pickled Cauliflower

Makes 4-6 servings


3 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons turmeric powder
1 whole clove garlic, peeled smashed
1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 cup water
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lapsang souchong tea for brine and 1 teaspoon lapsang souchong dry spice mixture


1.  Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Steep 1 teaspoon of lapsang souchong tea for 4 minutes. Strain out the tea leaves and let the tea cool to room temperature. To quickly cool the tea, place in the freezer.

2. While the tea cools, add the grapeseed oil to a medium skillet and heat over medium heat. Crush the coriander seeds, cumin seeds and remaining teaspoon of lapsang souchong with a mortar and pestle or bottom of a heavy pot. Add the crushed seeds, tea, turmeric powder, and garlic to the pan. Stir the tea and spices and cook until everything is fragrant. Add the cauliflower florets, toss until fully coated, and cook for 7 minutes or until slightly tender.

3. In a lidded container that can hold at least 2.5 cups of liquid, add the room temperature lapsang souchong steeped tea, apple cider vinegar, rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt. Seal airtight and shake to mix and combine.

4. Once the cauliflower has finished cooking, divide it among thee pint/16oz glass jars and pour in the tea infused pickling liquid. Seal jars airtight and store in the refrigerator overnight and up to a week for full flavor.

Note: Lapsang Souchong is a Chinese black tea with a clean, slightly sweet (think menthol) smoky flavor reminiscent of a campfire, as the black tea leaves are often dried over smoking pine needles. When infused in the pickling liquid and spice mix, the cauliflower tastes as though it was slowly smoked for hours. This robust taste can stand up to the warming spices, assertive turmeric and vinegar. Whether served as a small bite as part of a cheese spread, or sliced and layered on a sandwich, this pickled cauliflower is bold in both flavor and color.

Per serving (based on 6): 77 calories, 1 gram protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram sugar, 7 grams fat, no cholesterol, 64 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.