Beyond Chai - Cooking With Tea Leaves
Image Credit: Tea leaves can be used to make smoothies | Unsplash

If we ever had our very own Desi competition for the best beverage ever, chai would win and decimate all rivals like coffee, juice or soda by a huge, unscalable margin. Most of India wakes up to a hot piping cup of tea or they would not be able to function for the entire day. Milk tea, lemon tea, masala tea, cutting chai, gud waali chai, sugar free and dairy free tea – you name it and we have it! Tea is not just a part of India’s lifestyle; it is a lifestyle in itself.

But have you ever explored tea beyond just chai? Have you ever thought that the entire existence of a leaf so flavourful and colourful cannot just be limited to making variants of the same beverage? If you haven’t, we are here to change that for you! There are so many dishes that have extensive use of tea leaves for either flavouring or colouring. And you will be surprised to see how many sweet as well as savoury dishes can be made with tea leaves as one of the key ingredients. Let us look at some dishes that use tea leaves or chai patti in the recipe.

1. Pindi Chhole – The delicious, flavourful and most importantly brownish red coloured chhole that you get with fluffy bhature in many places at Punjab and Delhi is actually infused with tea leaves to bring out that exact tint which makes it look so tempting and different from other chhole preparations. The dish originated in Rawalpindi, current day Pakistan and hence the name. While making the dish, tea bags, or tea leaves tightly wrapped in a cloth are left with the chickpea while boiling them to get a brownish colour.

2. Smoothie – A genius way of adding tea leaves in dishes other than chai is using them to make amazing smoothies. All you have to do is boil flavoured tea leaves of your choice – which can range from chamomile to rose to a simple lemon and freeze that tea infused water to make flavoured ice cubes. Replace the plain water that you use to make smoothies and try these crushed tea infused ice cubes, that would be complimentary to the fruits that you decide to use. From a regular smoothie that you gulp down, you now have a unique, tasty drink.

Tea leaves can be used as a spice | Unsplash

– Have you ever wondered why we do not look at tea as a herb when in fact, it is just that? Packed with flavours and a colour that is unique to tea, it is infact a very good herb to add to your spice mix to zest us several dishes. All you have to do is grind your dried tea leaves and mix the powder with the different powdered spices that you use in an appropriate proportion. This powder can be used to season several dishes made with paneer, tofu or veggies.

4. Cookies – Well, I am sure most of you have had cookies with your cup of tea. But don’t you think it will be equally interesting to add tea to your cookie? Yes, you can instantly make your tea-time cookies better by just adding tea to them! How? All you have to do is grind a tablespoon of tea leaves and add it to your cookie dough. You will see the entire colour and flavour of your cookies transform. Try doing it when you make your next batch of cookies soon.

So, if you have tea leaves in your kitchen shelf and you still think that it is only for making a regular cup of chai, bookmark this article and go beyond that. A herb as versatile as tea should be used better and in several different ways.