Never Tried Cooking with Tea? Here’s Why It’s Time To Start

Photo: Stocksy/ Sophia Hsin
What could be more comforting than a cup of joe first thing in the morning? Well, a soul-warming cup of tea, of course. When you can’t bare to feel the jitters from yet another cup of cold brew for the day (as much as you may be tempted to), tea can be the perfect beverage—that’s not plain ol’ water—to sip on.

After all, tea is loaded with powerful antioxidants like polyphenols, which help keep your bones strong and healthy and your cognitive function in tip-top shape as you age. Plus, many kinds, like oolong and green tea, are packed with the amino acid L-theanine, which can boost your mood as well as your sleep.

Experts In This Article

So, why limit ourselves to only drinking this superhero ingredient when we can start cooking with it, too? Chef Nadia De La Vega, DAVIDsTEA’s tea sustainability and content director, certainly agrees. According to her, you most certainly can incorporate tea into recipes, from breakfast to lunch to dinner—and dessert! Here’s how.

How to cook with tea

According to De La Vega, cooking with tea is one of the easiest, quickest, and most effective ways to add loads of flavor to a recipe. “The way that I like to think about cooking with tea is similar to adding vanilla extract when baking cookies: It helps to round out the flavors in a recipe,” she says. De La Vega's family hails from culinary hubs around the world, including Mexico, Chile, Italy, and France, which have all influenced her cooking style. However, no matter the cuisine she’s cooking, De La Vega says that it's easy to find a way to incorporate tea in just about any dish, whether savory or sweet, hot or cold.

Make a tea concentrate

When De La Vega is cooking with green, white, or black teas, she starts by making a homemade concentrate, or a potent infusion of tea in water. To do so, she soaks four scoops of the tea of her choice using one of DAVIDsTEA’s perfect spoons (about 1.25 teaspoons each) in a half cup of hot water at the appropriate time and temperature for that specific tea, and then removes the leaves once ready.

The result? A super-concentrated liquid that acts like an extract, meaning it will add potent flavor and complexity to a dish. "You can use your concentrate for baking, marinating, or making sauce," says De La Vega. She recommends using the concentrate the same day you make it, but if you must, you may store it in the refrigerator for no more than three days.

Add matcha directly into a recipe

When using matcha, however, De La Vega says to add it straight into your dry ingredients when baking or directly into the blender if making a smoothie. "There’s no need to steep it in water beforehand," she says. If you’re worried about matcha clumping, in, say, a cookie recipe, De La Vega says you can always thin it out in a tiny bit of liquid before adding it to the other ingredients to make sure it incorporates smoothly into the dough or batter.

BTW, if you’re a novice to cooking with tea, De La Vega says your best bet is to start by cooking with matcha because you can add it in its raw form to just about anything from smoothies to cakes to grilled fish. (Try this delicious peach matcha if you want some added fruit flavor.)

Don’t overheat the tea

"Always be mindful of how hot your tea will get during the cooking process," De La Vega says. “Steeping the tea and making concentrates really helps with the temperature variables. When cooking with tea, you want to ensure you’re not using too high of a temperature. In green teas, for example, it can make the flavor of the tea and the resulting dish taste bitter.”

De La Vega also recommends not over-infusing tea leaves, as this can bring out too much astringency, which can overpower a recipe. By using tea concentrates, you can better control the flavor profile and add the tea flavoring at the perfect time during cooking.

5 tea-infused recipes to try

cooking with tea

1. Cinnamon Apple Tea-Infused Oatmeal

If breakfast usually means a cup of tea with a bowl of oatmeal, why not combine the two in this tea-infused oatmeal recipe? It features their Forever Nuts tea with sweet apple bits and cinnamon bark for a soul-warming hearty breakfast filled with tons of antioxidants from the herbal tea blend. “I love making oatmeal using either an herbal tea or a tea that has caffeine, like black tea,” De La Vega says. Infusing caffeine into your oatmeal can certainly help kickstart the day and add a jolt of energy to your breakfast.

BTW, if you're looking for more tea-infused breakfast ideas, you really can’t go wrong with a good ol’ matcha smoothie.

Get the recipe: Forever Nuts Tea Oatmeal

cooking with tea

2. Chai Butternut Squash Soup

Match the PSL-flavored-everything energy with this chai butternut squash soup recipe that's packed with ginger, cinnamon, star anise, and cardamom. These cozy spices pair perfectly with the caramelized butternut squash and sweet potato.

Get the recipe: Butternut Squash Soup Recipe Made With Organic David’s Chai Tea

cooking with tea

3. Soft Serve Matcha Ice Cream

I scream, you scream, we all scream for this soft serve matcha ice cream recipe that can be made in three different variations: peach, maple, or strawberry. (One scoop of each, please.) "I love this treat, but honestly, the dessert applications for tea are really endless. You can also make Earl Gray apple pie, matcha chocolate chip cookies, chai banana bread, or tea-infused popsicles," De La Vega says. Yum, yum, and yum.

Get the recipe: Soft Serve Matcha Ice Cream

cooking with tea

4. London Fog Beer Cake with Cream of Earl Grey Tea

Speaking of which. Cake and tea: Need we say more? This Earl Grey-infused dessert recipe is light, airy, and bursting with fresh vanilla flavor.

Get the recipe: London Fog Beer Cake Made With Organic Cream of Earl Grey Tea

cooking with tea

5. Matcha Chocolate Chunk Cookies

So, what's wrong with another tea-infused dessert recipe? This matcha chocolate chunk cookie recipe transforms a classic favorite with a few spoonfuls of matcha that add color, antioxidants, and a zap of energy that would make the cookie monster immediately swoon.

Get the recipe: Absolute Best Chocolate Chunk Cookies 

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