Did you know that in addition to drinking your tea, you can also eat the tea leaves? This may sound surprising at first, but keep in mind that this is precisely what you do when you prepare a tea like matcha.
The leaves are finely ground into a powder, and then they are gently but quickly whisked to create a delicious, frothy beverage. What else can you do with those leaves though?
One way in which people have been trying to get the most out of their tea more recently has been to experiment with the tea leaves in culinary applications. Some people will use their infused tea in a marinade, make a gelato, or even bake a cake. Today, we’ll share a fun and easy delicious recipe to help you create the perfect tea dessert that will be sure to please your guests, just in time for the holidays.
Perhaps one of the easiest, tastiest, and most elegant way to put your tea leaves to use is to bake shortbread cookies. These cookies tend to have the perfect texture between delightfully crispy and “melt in your mouth” buttery goodness. Complemented with a sweetness that is balanced by the tea tannins in the leaves, this might be one of the best examples of a happy marriage of opposites.
To get you started, you’ll need (makes approximately two dozen):
- 1 Cup of Softened Organic, Unsalted Butter
- 1–2 Tablespoons of Crushed Tea Leaves
- ½ Cup of Powdered Sugar
- 2 Cups of All-Purpose, Unbleached Flour
- ½ Teaspoon of Himalayan Sea Salt
Step One: Either finely chop or finely grind your tea leaves. If you do not have a mortar and pestle to help with the grinding, the spine of a good chef’s knife down nearer the handle can make for an excellent tool to ground herbs.
The choice of tea leaves is up to you, but you’ll want to choose a tea that is more fully oxidized, as it tends to be drier and crushes more easily. It can even be helpful to start with a tea that is already on the finer side. Whichever tea you choose will be what defines the flavor of your cookies.
We recommend Keemun Imperial Gongfu since the leaves tend to be smaller and the flavor is quite nice. If you wish to get a little brave, although the leaves are larger, you might also want to try Lapsang Souchong for something more exotic with a smokier flavor profile. Alternatively, our Xinhui Mandarin Black would also make for a good candidate, imparting a nice citrus note. You could even finely chop bits of the dried mandarin shell, adding it to your crushed tea blend.
Step Two: Using a handmixer on a low setting, carefully blend your butter with your tea leaves. Once you are finished, you will want to let this mixture rest, depending on your desired level of flavor. We like letting this sit for about six hours, but you’ll want to adjust for your own preference.
Step Three: Add the powdered sugar to the mixture, carefully blending it together with a handmixer on a low setting.
Step Four: Add the all-purpose flour, continuing with the careful blending.
Step Five: Mix in the sea salt while finishing up the blending. Make sure it is nicely dispersed throughout.
Step Six: Preheat oven to 350°F (~175°C).
Step Seven: Lightly sprinkle some flour on a flat surface and find a rolling pin. Remove the mixture from the bowl, placing it on the surface, and begin rolling it flat until it is approximately ¼ inch thick (5–6 mm). Using either a cookie cutter or the top of a glass, start to separate your dough into cookie shapes, placing them on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.
Step Eight: Place your sheet of cookies into the oven, making sure you watch them closely. You’re looking for them to begin browning while making sure the dough is no longer sticky. The baking should take approximately 15 minutes, give or take depending on ovens. They can burn quickly, and so it is important to keep an eye on them.
Step Nine: Remove your tea cookies from the oven and place them on a cooling rack. You’ll be ready to enjoy them in no time!
When you’re finished, it’s time to enjoy your cookies! We recommend serving them with your favorite tea. It’s important to remember, however, that with black tea leaves in the cookies, there will be some caffeine, and so this is a treat best enjoyed in the afternoon if you’re sensitive to caffeine. If you decide to experiment with any other kinds of teas, like green, white, or even puerh, feel free to share your experience in the comments below!