Cooking with Tea

Last year one of the things I got up to when I went blogging AWOL was to attend the Tea Cookery workshop run by Pei of Teanamu. I’ve cooked with tea a little bit over the years using it to smoke duck,chicken,salmon and tomatoes (yes,tomatoes) and also to make a fruit cake that was one of my Grandma’s specialties where the dried fruits are soaked in tea overnight. All have always been delicious and the tea imparts a subtle yet rich flavour to both sweet and savoury dishes,so I was looking forward to learning more about using tea in cooking but not being much of a tea expert I didn’t realise the delights I was in for.

The location is lovely,Pei holds the workshops at his home and while Pei cooks,we watch and take notes,we eat delicious food over a leisurely two –three hours. Being invited into someone’s home to learn about food feels very special,more a meeting of friends than a food workshop. As Pei makes the dishes he explains about each one and we gather round the island worktop to watch and learn.

Pei uses a range of different teas to demonstrate the varying flavours and effects that tea can bring to cooking from the very delicate to the earthy. He stresses that the dishes he has created wouldn’t normally all be served at one meal as that would be considered an over emphasis on tea but there might be one course that contained tea in some form. Tasting the dishes I think that most people would be more than happy to eat a menu such as this and the different dishes with tea as a theme would create a talking point at a dinner,that is probably against all the ideas of balance that eastern philosophy has but in terms of taste to a western palate the dishes work in harmony.

Here’s the dishes we sampled:

Steamed Tofu in a Tuo Cha Konbu Broth

Tempura Vegetables with Shiso Sencha Green Tea Salt

Grilled Salmon with Lapsang Souchong Tea Rub with Matcha Noodles

Matcha Jelly and ding Dong Sorbet with Candied Azuki Beans

As you can see all the dishes were beautifully presented and all tasted amazing. Pei runs similar workshops (the recipes will vary with season) throughout the year. The food I ate and the teas we drank started me on an exploration of tea that is still progressing. I don’t think I had ever realised how different and how delicious tea can be.

With thanks to Pei for inviting me to attend the workshop as his guest.

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