Tea Is the Secret Ingredient That Makes Pretty Much Everything More Delicious
Cooking with tea is one of the best kept secrets.
What's better than a piping hot mug of tea? Tea is cozy, packed with flavor, and filled with health benefits, from oolong tea's antioxidant properties to chamomile's natural ability to induce calmness and yerba mate's anti-inflammatory perks.
And while we love sipping our tea, this ingredient is vastly under-recognized for its use in cooking. Tea—especially one as fragrant as Earl Grey or as complex as matcha—can elevate a dish more than you'd think. Its rich, herbal taste makes it the perfect "secret ingredient" in baked goods like cakes and cookies, marinades, glazes, and so much more. Try infusing tea with fresh herbs to yield a flavor-packed cooking liquid for fish, or adding chai to a hot toddy for a sweet-and-spicy aromatic cocktail. These seven recipes are all delicious ways to use up a tin of tea leaves (or better yet, an excuse to go buy one).
1 Matcha Layercake With Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
This decadent dessert gets its gorgeous green hue from 2 1/2 tablespoons of matcha powder, a Japanese green tea made from drying and crushing young tea leaves to form a light green powder. It adds a deeply satisfying umami flavor and hint of creamy sweetness to the airy cake, which is a perfect match for the double layer of vanilla buttercream frosting.
2 Tea-Glazed Drumsticks
Keep napkins handy for these sticky chicken drumsticks. The glaze is a simple mixture of brewed tea, orange juice, and honey. Zesty, assertive, and sweet, this sauce will surely stay on rotation whether you’re grilling, searing, or using the oven.
3 Earl Grey-Poached Cod
Poaching fish in tea is the genius prep method you never knew you needed. Tea plus aromatics, such as star anise and ginger and soy sauce, infuse the fish with the most flavorful stock. Once it's done cooking, the liquid then turns into a sauce with just the simple addition of mirin and rice vinegar. Serve with rice or steamed broccoli for a major weeknight win.
4 Earl Grey Shortbreads
Here, buttery shortbread cookies get the fragrant treatment thanks to a touch of Earl Grey tea leaves. They’re magnificent on their own, but you can easily use these treats to elevate a bowl of ice cream or trifle. The possibilities are endless, and these cookies couldn’t be easier to make.
5 Chocolate Earl Grey Cake
Adding a cup of Earl Grey tea into the batter infuses this decadent chocolate cake with bergamot flavor and delicious herbal fragrance.
6 Lemon-Chamomile Shortbread
Buttery taste and crumbly texture, plus the subtle scent of citrus and herbal tea, makes these simple biscuits the ultimate after dinner treat.
7 Chai Hot Toddy
This homemade hot toddy recipe uses chai tea in a deliciously creative way: By infusing it into a heavily spiced rum cocktail. To take your warm tea cocktail to the next level, try frothing the milk before you stir it into the chai, then finish it off with a cinnamon stick garnish.