We know that drinking that cup of green (or black or white) tea is good for your health. But it turns out that tea can be more than a healthful drink. It also can add flavor when used as an ingredient in savory and sweet dishes. For example, black tea enhances flavor when cooking lentils, and green tea does the same for risotto. Green or white tea combined with diced melon, apple, pineapple, grapes or berries makes an aromatic, tasty fruit salad. Chef Melanie Franks, a chef-instructor at the International Culinary Center in New York City and a certified tea specialist, tells High Energy for Life readers how brewed tea can be used as an ingredient in cooking…

NOT ALL TEA IS THE SAME

Tea brewed from the leaves of the plant Camellia sinensis—including black, green, white and oolong teas—is rich in flavanols, which are potent antioxidants. Other teas, such as herbal teas, can be used in cooking, but while these teas add flavor, they don’t provide the same health benefits as teas from the Camillia sinensis family.

BREWING YOUR TEA

The quality of tea you use and how long you brew it makes a difference in the way it tastes. To ensure the best flavor, use loose tea. The bigger the size of the tea leaf—whole is best—the tastier.

To brew full-flavored tea that is not overly bitter, use one tablespoon (6 grams) of loose tea leaves and five ounces of water (or multiples of these amounts). For best-tasting tea, the water should never be boiling. The temperature of the water and brewing time vary according to the kind of tea used. You can use an instant-read thermometer to determine the temperature of the water.

Green Tea
Temperature of water: 160-170°F
Brewing time: 2 to 4 minutes

Black Tea
Temperature of water: 180-205°F
Brewing time: 3 to 5 minutes

White Tea
Temperature of water: 160-180°F
Brewing time: 5 to 10 minutes

Oolong Tea
Temperature of water: 205°F
Brewing time: 5 to 7 minutes

CHEF FRANKS’ BREWED TEA RECIPES

Green Tea Gazpacho

Serves 4

½ cup chopped green onions

¾ cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped

2 cups yellow tomato, seeded and chopped

1 cup yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped

½ Serrano chile pepper, with or without seeds, chopped

1 ½ cups brewed green tea, chilled

2-3 teaspoons sherry vinegar

2-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

12 seedless green grapes, halved, for garnish

4 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt, for garnish

Place the green onions, cucumber, tomatoes, yellow and Serrano peppers, the tea and 2 teaspoons of the vinegar in a blender. Whirl for 5 seconds. Drizzle in the oil, starting with 2 tablespoons, and whirl until the soup is creamy in texture. Add more oil as needed, and more vinegar according to taste. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The soup tastes best when it’s refrigerated for no more than two days.

Divide the cold soup among 4 individual bowls. Garnish each with 8 grape halves and 1 tablespoon of the yogurt. Serve immediately.

Smoky Tea Salad Dressing

¼ cup white balsamic vinegar (available at specialty food stores and some supermarkets)

1 Tablespoon brewed laspsang-suchong tea (a black tea that has been smoked for flavor)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Drizzle of honey

½ cup canola or grapeseed oil

Combine white balsamic vinegar with the tea leaves and let them steep overnight. Strain the leaves out of the vinegar, then mix the Dijon mustard and a drizzle of honey into the flavored vinegar. Finally, whisk in ½ cup canola or grapeseed oil. Drizzle over spinach salad or leafy green salad.