At its simplest, tea is a beverage made from pouring hot water over cured tea leaves. We have a huge variety of teas available to us because it is easy to add flowers, spices and herbs to those basic leaves to create a wide range of wonderful beverages in all kinds of different flavors. Tea can be a wonderful addition to baked goods because of that complexity and it can add many layers of flavor to what would otherwise be a simple recipe. Tea can be used in a couple of different ways and the way that works the best for you is going to depend on what type of recipe you’re making.
Brewed Tea - brewed tea is loose-leaf or bagged tea brewed in water in a regular fashion. This tea can be used in quick breads and cakes – most recipes that use milk or water as an ingredient – to bring in the flavor of tea. I always brew my tea double strength for baking, to ensure that the flavor of the tea clearly makes it into the baked good. Give this method a try in a batch of Chai Latte Muffins or a fruitcake-like Honey Tea Bread.
Tea Infusion - in recipes that call for heavy cream, like chocolate truffles or ice cream, you don’t want to introduce water because it will change the consistency of the recipe. Instead, you can infuse the cream directly into heavy cream by mixing it with the tea (bagged or loose leaf) and bringing it to a simmer. The tea should be strained out before using. I use this method in some of the ice cream recipes in my book, How To Make Ice Cream.
Dried Tea - most teas are completely edible and can be incorporated directly into baked goods without the need for an infusion. The dried tea can be used whole if it is fine, but should be ground a bit in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle if it is coarse. This method is a great choice for recipes where there is not much liquid involved, such as shortbread cookies and mug cakes. It gives the finished product a lovely speckled look, as well as giving it some good flavor. You will have to experiment with the quantity of tea needed, as tea can vary widely in strength. For most pronounced teas (chai, Earl Grey, chamomile), I find that a teaspoon or so in an average sized batch of cookies will bring in a noticeable flavor.
Get some more tea and baking inspiration from my 50 Shades of Earl Grey Recipes, a list for tea lovers!