Tea might be the second most-consumed beverage in the world. But sometimes, drinking tea when you are stressed or wanting that extra caffeine boost in the morning is just not enough. 

Looking for an excuse to consume more tea? Think outside the teacup. We often overlook what these fragrant leaves can also be used for other than drinking. Treat these tea leaves as distinctive spices that add layers to sweet and savory dishes that no other ingredient can do. The results are some pretty delicious dishes, ranging from frozen pops to pasta. To make full use of its potential, get ready to cook with tea and let its flavors play with the flavors of your dish.

Two Categories of Tea

Mackenzie Huggins

Tea can impart a smoky, floral, or even grassy flavor. Composed of leaves, stems and roots, tea is infused in hot water to bring out its earthy flavor. To make the most out of your tea cooking, there are two categories of tea that you should be familiar with: true and herbal. True teas, such as green, black, white, yellow, oolong, and pu-erh, are made from the Camellia sinensis plant and contain caffeine. Believe it or not, their different looks and unique flavors depend on whether and how they are dried or fermented. On the other hand, herbal teas are made from South African red bush and are caffeine-free. Some popular ones are mint, chamomile, rooibos, and hibiscus. 


1. Bake into Buttery Shortbread Cookies

sweet, cookie, pastry, dairy product, cake, bread, chocolate
Cari Lamba

Shortbread cookies are already addicting. But with a tablespoon or two of dark tea, like black or roasted oolong, this bittersweet addition gently enhances the butter and sugar qualities. A great way to cook with tea and to spice up a simple butter cookie.  

#SpoonTip: Like flour, tea absorbs water, so too much tea can dry out a cookie. For a strong tea cookie, cut back on the flour by a tablespoon or two.

2. Bake a Hearty Oat Crumble

cereal, sweet, milk, coffee, chocolate
Monica Lazarus

Love for baking, fruits, and tea leaves are feel-good hearty ingredients sure to result in a wholesome crumble. The addition of hibiscus tea leaves makes this dish fascinating and definitely brings a unique, delicious twist.  

3. Flavor Oatmeal

cereal, muesli, oatmeal, sweet, corn, granola, milk, wheat, rice
Hana Brannigan

What a pleasant way to bring in a subtle tea flavor into your morning meal. Steep your choice of tea bags in heated milk for a couple of minutes, add oats, and enjoy. 

4. Infuse Dairy (Ice Cream/ Panna Cotta/ Custards)

Athena Huynh

The hype for any tea-flavored ice cream is definitely real. Say matcha ice cream, this grassy-yet-savory treat is many tea lovers’ go-to-choice. A refreshing, rich tea dessert is always so delightful on a hot, summer day.

5. Freeze for Frozen Fruit

Alexa Rojek

Tea is an excellent base for frozen fruit popsicles. A wonderful balance of tartness in tea and sweetness in fruits makes this a popping treat to have. 

6. Refrigerate for Jello Treat

chocolate, sweet, cake, cream, milk, candy
Leah Valenti

Tired of the same good old Jello? Use any of your favorite teas and some molds to showcase your creativity. This upgraded Jello will make your friends jelly.

#SpoonTip: Herbal teas work best in creating a strong flavor base.


7. Make Tea Butter

Have you own tea-infused butter that can be used to bake or to make your biscuits tastier. Grind tea leaves, simply add it to softened butter, and allow the mixture to firm up again in the fridge.  

8. Make Tea-Infused Salt/ Spice Mix

No kitchen is complete without salt and spice. Think of tea bags as individualized spice packets. When salt and tea are combined, the meal possibilities are endless. So please pass the salt and tea. 

9. Use as a Marinade/ Dressing/ Sauce

Immerse it. Dress it. Dip it. When your favorite spices, herbs, and flavoring are cooked with tea, this creates a delicious, thicker liquid that adds flavor to the dish. 

10. Simmer Tea Leaves in Soup/ Swap Stock for Tea

A hefty pinch or two of tea leaves in your soup stock incorporates subtle flavors to the broth.

#SpoonTip: Great tea offers a roasted, savory taste that works well with vegetables, fish, and poultry. Because of its smoky flavor, black tea works well with beef, mushrooms, and more flavorful ingredients. Caffeine-free rooibos is an excellent replacement for vegetable broth due to its earthy and sweet traits.

11. Replace Water with Tea in Beans and Rice 

A great swap of cooking water with tea imparts a hint of color and flavor to beans and rice. 

12. Work it into Pasta 

This is a homemade fun food you can make with your friends and family. When you are making your own pasta, don’t hesitate to add tea to the mix for a unique but good surprise. 

13. Boil it to Steep Tea Eggs

Sabrina Yu

Use black tea leaves, soy sauce, and spices to steep this eggcellent snack. Ready to eat warm or cold, these tea eggs are easily one of the yummiest way of eating eggs.  

14. Meat Smoked with Tea Leaves

Burning tea leaves to smoke foods is a classic Chinese technique that adds a great smoky bite, which is more delicate than wood. Prior to roasting, make a dry rub with tea leaves and spices of your choice for meat or vegetables. 

#SpoonTip: Chai, jasmine, and green tea are always great options for smoking chicken, quail, turkey, and pork loin.

Tea is great for sipping. However, cooking with tea brings new worlds of fragrance and flavor to your food. You’ll be surprised by how tealicious it can be when tea is used in recipes from cookies to rice. So the next time you consume tea, think not just about how it tastes as a drink but also how you’re going to cook with it.