I am a tea drinker. I love just about everything to do with tea, I am especially captivated by the ritual of tea. You might think I mean the Japanese tea ceremony, but actually I find the western rituals of tea making and drinking, while nowhere near as aesthetic or intellectual a pursuit, equally appealing.
It seems like such a simple thing to make tea, and in a way it is--you boil water and steep the tea leaves then pour it--but each of those steps if done improperly can make a dreadful libation. The water needs to be fresh, the temperature should be boiling or just under the boil for some types of tea, like green tea. The amount of tea is also crucial. I find that I need to use much less tea than is usually called for to make a good pot of tea. Too much tea in the pot (I steep it in a fine mesh strainer) can make the tea bitter and so too can steeping for too long. Each tea is slightly different and you need to find out just how much time works for each. The longest I steep tea is with Darjeeling and it steeps for 6 minutes. Most black teas I steep for 3-5 minutes. Green teas even less.
I am also intrigued by the idea of cooking with tea. Not things to serve with tea, mind you, but actually using tea as an ingredient. Recently I have been experimenting with tea smoking chicken and this is how I do it:
Tea Smoked Chicken
2 large or 3 small skinless boneless chicken breasts, rubbed with
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup Lapsang Souchong tea (you could experiment with other types, any black tea should work, the stronger the better)
1/4 cup jasmine rice
1/4 cup brown sugar
Line a wok or heavy large flat saucepan (not nonstick) with tin foil. Let the excess drape out, you will need it later. Combine the tea, rice, and sugar. Spread out mixture evenly in the center of the tin foil. Place a rack over the tea mixture or form a "snake" out of tinfoil to put around the tea. Heat pan or wok over high heat.
When the mix begins to smoke, place chicken on rack or a piece of punctured tin foil over the tea (balanced on the snake). Cover with lid (if you wrap the lid in tin foil too there will be no clean up whatsoever to this recipe, other than throwing out masses of tin foil) and fold the foil you have sticking out of the pan up over the lid to seal - you want to keep the smoke in. Lower the heat and smoke for 15 minutes.
When the chicken cools it can be shredded to make a great Asian style chicken salad.
If you too want to try using tea as an ingredient, check out the web sites of Celestial Seasonings and Stash which each have lots of interesting tea recipes to get you started experimenting.