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Culinary Tea by Cynthia Gold is a favorite book of Bon Teavant, who interviewed Gold at the Boston Park Plaza, where she is employed as Tea Sommelier. Culinary Tea is not only very elegantly designed, but filled with more than 100 recipes using tea as a prime feature, and tea information that tea lovers will gobble up or sip page by fascinating page for hours with delight.

With this book in your library you don't have to be a trained chef to create a Vegetable Tart with an Assam tea crust,  for example, nor recreate the wheel to prepare a Fresh Tea Vinaigrette on your dinner salad, not to mention the delectible Flourless Keemun-Cherry Chocolate Torte to top off your meal. Are you salivating yet?  If not, the gorgeous photos (both color and black and white) will help you along.

The book is very well organized, with Part One offering valuable information and insights into many aspects of tea from tea storage to the cultural roots of culinary tea.  Part Two serves up recipes and techniques for cooking with tea, and is sorted into Starters, Entrees, Desserts, and Tea Beverages (including cocktails). The book also covers information on pairing teas for drinking with different foods. 

Many readers will appreciate the further categorization of each segment, for example, Entrees are grouped into Vegetarian, Seafood, Poultry, and Meat dishes. If you happen to be vegetarian, this book will not disappoint.  The vast majority of dishes in this book are meatless, and the great information on tea history and culture is worth the cost, even if you don't cook.

According to Cynthia, "In each culture, there is a wonderful tradition of cooking with tea, but for some reason, these historic dishes are looked at as something very distinct and tend not to be replicated, to not go through modern variations within those cultures; so to me, those dishes are beautiful as-is, but they also should be inspiration for a wide variety of other techniques and uses."  In Culinary Tea, Gold offers the results of her inspiration, with a wide variety of dishes and even a series of tea cocktails.

If you are simply a tea lover searching for hard-to-find information on how tea is used as food by different cultures throughout history, Culinary Tea is a great reference.  The book also features a number of stunning color and black and white images of the dishes as well as of tea farms, tea ware, and tea growing regions around the world.

Check it out and feed your ravenous appetite for inspiration, beauty, inventiveness and, of course, the ravishing deliciousness that is Tea.

tea oil noodles

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TeaOilNoodlesSm.jpg Tea Oil Noodles, a Taiwanese dish
While I was in Taiwan and sampling teas in Pinglin, a tea farmer's wife put out a wonderful spread of food, including one of my favorite Taiwanese dishes called "Tea Oil Noodles". 

A simple dish to prepare, I want to share it with Bon Teavant friends.  The traditional dish consists of rice noodles or wheat noodles, tea oil and scallions, with a pinch of salt and pepper.  I like eating this as a whole meal, so I like to add a bit of asparagus and red bell pepper. Fried tofu, meat or shrimp would also go well with this dish if you need protein in a meal.

Here is the recipe:

4 cups cooked wheat noodles or rice noodles
1/4 cup tea oil
scallions, chopped (use both white & green part)
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
5-6 stalks asparagus, cut in 2" pieces
salt or soy sauce
red pepper flakes

In a saute pan, add 1 tbs tea oil. When hot, add white parts of scallions and red pepper flakes, stirring for a minute. Add red bell pepper and asparagus, stir for another two minutes and remove from heat.  Add noodles and remaining tea oil, stirring to combine.  Add salt and pepper or soy sauce to taste and top with the remaining green parts of the scallions.

Note: We use Arette Organic Tea Seed Oil.

Note2: Use only tea seed oil, and never use tea tree oil, which is an essential oil and should not be ingested in any quantity.
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After taking a day to acclimate, I headed up to Mao Kong in Southeastern Taipei. The number S10 bus took me up the winding mountain to some of the most beautiful tea houses I've seen. Stunning temples dot hillsides with several arteries of hiking trails for those who want to earn their tea and dim sum. 

A couple of favorites for different reasons include Shang Yang Tea house, which served one of the best Jin Xuan's I've ever seen or tried. Dark emerald green tea glistened in the yixing pot. After a 13-hour flight and the rigors of engaging in a new culture, this was a most welcomed tidbit from the heavens.

Yang Syu Yang tearoom is spectacular for it's decor and views. The tea is not superb, but the views, and even the gold-leaf wallpaper make up for whatever is lacking in the leaf.  This tea house features an indoor koi pond, with stepping stones over a bridge to a number of private rooms with carved doors and windows that overlook Taipei, temples, and the lush tropical flora of Taiwan.

For those who don't mind heights, a gondola will take visitors up (or down) the mountain, offering panoramic views of Taipei and the tea houses and temples tossed across the landscape like so many jewels flung from the hands of ancient gods.

Tea Oil Noodles at Shang Yang Tea House in Mao Kong/Taipei

Food is served at the tea houses as well, and at a fraction of the cost of the tea.  I enjoyed "Tea Oil Noodles" at Yang Shang Tea House and the dumplings at Yang Syu Yang.   Just a couple of dollars will buy some amazing home made dim sum. 

I couldn't manage to tear myself away, and as night descended, decided to brave the gondola the trip down the mountain rather than wait an hour for the bus (which had just come and gone). Bravery has its rewards: the views were stunning with Taipei 101, one of the tallest buildings in the world, glittering in the distance. 

Coasting through the dark, starry sky, you can hear cicadas chirping along the side of the mountain and the dark sky means one isn't completely aware of the gondola's altitude.  More coming soon, including a few videos.
Although I do not consider myself to be a gourmet cook, I do keep the burners going in my kitchen, and I've found that tea seed oil is one of the finest ingredients that can be used in a dish to easily give it that je ne sais quoi magic. Tea oil also happens to be the healthiest choice of cooking oils, with 0 grams of trans fat, no cholesterol, and with a low smoke point to protect you from carcinogens. As tea oil does not have a strong taste, I can only suspect that it is the enchantment of Camellia sinensis itself that enlivens every dish with which it's made.  

PLEASE NOTE THAT TEA OIL FOR COOKING IS NOT THE SAME AS TEA TREE OIL.  Using tea tree oil in a dish could be very dangerous.  Be sure you are using food grade edible tea oil and not a medicinal tea tree essential oil when you cook.

I like to use Arette Extra Virgin Tea Seed Oil.  It has a nutty natural flavor, has 0 grams of fat, no cholesterol, and contains the polyphenols that make tea so good for our health.  

I use tea oil to saute vegetables and meats, as well as in salad dressings, pasta sauces, marinades.  In cooking, I often use it in addition to olive oil. Tea oil has a very low burn rate, so it's great for stir fry dishes.  I even use it in homemade bath and cosmetic formulas.

I thought I might dare to share a personal recipe for Clam and Shrimp Linguine I recently made for my family. At first I was shocked by the uncommon silence at the dinner table. But upon closer examination, I  realized gladly that talking and ravenous eating are not compatible.  A couple of us even went to the kitchen to find anything at all left in the pan to sop up the remaining french bread.  Yum.

Here is the recipe:

Bon Teavant Clam & Shrimp with Whole Wheat Linguine:

1/4 cup tea oil
2 tbs. unsalted butter
2-3 tbs olive oil
6 cloves crushed garlic
1/4 cup shallots
1 txp. red pepper flakes
3/4 cup white wine
1/2 c. chicken or vegetable broth
1-2 tbs. fresh lemon thyme
1 squeeze of lemon
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1tsp. Thai fish oil
1 lb. clams
1/2 lb. shrimp
whole wheat linguine
salt to taste

Let clams rinse/sit in salted water for an hour, then scrub to remove any remaining sand.

Cook linguine per instructed on the package and drain

In a saucepan, melt together oils & butter
Add shallots and simmer about 1 minute
Add white wine, broth & lemon juice
Add parsley, thyme, garlic, red pepper flakes, and fish oil
Bring all to a boil, then reduce to a simmer
Taste and adjust seasoning, adding salt and pepper if needed (and maybe a little more red pepper)
Add clams and cook for about 5 minutes
Add shrimp and cook for another 3-5 minutes, until just pink

Put cooked and drained linguine in a large serving dish
Pour shrimp and clam sauce over linguine

Serve with french bread and salad, and some freshly grated parmesan on the side


cooking with tea

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cooking with tea jpg
Why cook with tea?  With the hundreds of herbs and spices available, you might wonder why someone would focus on tea. Robert Wemischner, chef and author of Cooking with Tea, took some time out from the kitchen to explain. To begin with, "tea has no calories, no sodium, no carbohydrate, no fat, and yet a lot of flavor," says Wemischner. As well, he enthuses, tea transforms the food that is made with it. He uses tea in several ways to cook both sweet and savory dishes.  Whether you use it to smoke meats, create rubs, marinades or sauces, tea is a versatile and exciting ingredient for the adventurous chef.Click to hear our 4 min. interview:


What do you think about organic teas?