Green Tea Primer

Ying Chang Compestine has shared her tantalizing recipes using green tea. Here, we present her tips for adding tea to your cooking.

  • Use the highest-quality green tea for maximum flavor. But when you're getting started, you'll probably find that the standard supermarket brands work just fine.
  • Loose or bagged tea can be interchanged in many dishes, but not in all of them, so it's a good idea for you to have both types on hand. One tea bag contains about one teaspoon tea leaves.
  • Once it's opened, store green tea in a sealed container in a cool, dark place for no more than six months.
  • Don't use green tea that is more than six months old for cooking. Most of its flavor will have been lost beyond that point.
  • Save used tea leaves, and spread them around the bases of your plants as the Chinese do. Because used tea leaves contain organic matter, they make a good fertilizer.
  • We brewed the green tea for our recipes to the boiling point (212 degrees F) using standard tap water. Among some connoisseurs, who may also favor bottled water over tap, the tea (especially for drinking purposes) is considered best when brewed to 160 degrees to 170 degrees F.
  • We found it best to brew the tea, either as loose leaves or in bags, for three to five minutes for cooking purposes. If you are using the leaves, you'll notice them fully unfurl and soften.
  • Avoid aluminum or plastic containers for brewing, as they will affect the flavor.

Loose or bagged, green tea comes either pure or flavored with flowers (such as jasmine) or fruit (such as lemon). Use lemon-or ginger-flavored teas for seafood dishes. Fruit-and flower-flavored teas work well in desserts and drinks.

 

Because availability varies in the United States, we used common commercial types easily found in the tea section of your supermarket. But if you want to look a little more, try some of these other varieties.

 

Gunpowder: This makes a dark-green tea with a strong, pleasant flavor and a long-lasting aftertaste. One of the first teas exported from China to Europe, it derives its name from its resemblance to the gunpowder used during the 17th century. Each leaf is rolled tightly into a pellet shape, but the leaves unfurl when brewed in hot water.

 

Dragon Well: A light-green, fresh and mellow tea with a flowery aroma when brewed. The tea leaves are flat, long, and vibrant green. When the highest grades of Dragon Well brew, the leaves open to reveal intact buds within.

 

New Mist: Not really a tea type, but if you find this on a label, get it. The name refers to the highest-quality grade of any tea; it's based on the time of day the tea is harvested. Only the youngest leaves are used; they're hand-picked before dawn and processed the same day.

 

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