The History of Tea

July 10th, 2017

“A cup of tea is a cup of life” goes the ancient saying, and who are we to disagree?

Tea has been so ingrained into every part of our society that most people (me included) would be pretty lost without it. Crisis or shindig; commiseration or relaxation, or simply because we could murder one; we love a good cup of tea.

But, the humble cuppa has recently dragged itself from its sleepy position as the nation’s favourite drink and has begun to start trends all of it’s very own. A chef friend of mine recently let me into a little secret – he cooks with the stuff. My confused face was in full swing as he smugly reeled off some of his recipes for stewing, rubbing, soaking and coating a variety of things with this magic little leaf.

Of course, it’s only a new trend to us; the forward thinking Ancient Chinese folk were using tea in their cooking for centuries before we’d even heard of it; well I suppose they were surrounded by it. They used dried leaves to stuff fish before steaming it; added it to the fire for smoking meat and even used it to give hard boiled eggs a brown marbled effect.

I think I’ll pass on the eggs thanks, but there are loads of other ways you can use tea to spice up your cooking, and here are just a few:

1: Finely chop some dried black tea leaves and add them to some olive oil to use as a rub for meat or fish and marinade before cooking. If you use a smoked tea leaf such as a Russian Caravan or Lapsang Souchong, then this will give a fabulous rich smoky flavour.

2: Brewed tea (of any variety, depending on the kind of flavour you want) can be combined with some sugar, chopped tomatoes, sautéed onions, garlic and seasoning to make a delicious braising sauce for meat or fish. Simply combine the ingredients, add the meat and bake in a covered dish until the meat is tender.

3: How about using tea to smoke chicken? If you mix a handful of black tea leaves with the same of sugar and a little chopped fresh ginger, then place on some tin foil inside a large wok. When the wok starts to smoke over a medium heat, place a wire rack over the tea mixture and throw on a chicken breast that has been rubbed with a simple marinade of garlic and five-spice powder. Cover the whole lot with a large lid and let it smoke for about twenty minutes. Delicious.

4: For a great veggie side dish, fry some chopped garlic. Once softened, add a couple of tablespoons of brewed black tea. Simmer for a few minutes, then pour over steamed green beans and sprinkle with toasted almonds.

There’s a huge variety of tea out there, so dig out the tea, get creative and start experimenting with different flavours and strengths for different ingredients.

Now all you need is a spotty tea pot and a jazzy tea cosy that Nana knitted. Just remember the wise old words of Billy Connolly “never trust a man, who when left alone with a tea cosy doesn’t try it on”….

Don the tea cosy, dance around the kitchen like a fool, and hope the neighbours aren’t watching!