6 Holiday Tea Recipes


As you start to think about what you plan to serve this holiday season, think TEA! I’m not referring to having a holiday afternoon tea, although that can be a lovely idea, but to consider letting Camellia sinensis offer some new (or very old) twists on some of your holiday classics. If you’ve been reading Tea Magazine for awhile, you know that tea can be a versatile ingredient to inspire you within any course, so why not consider sharing your passion for tea with your holiday guests.

Do you brine your holiday bird, or have you considered experimenting with brining? Whether your tastes run to turkey, pheasant or chicken, a good brine, as long as the bird is not pre-brined or packed in salt water, can help make the bird or your pork roast more flavorful and moist. Tea can play a wonderful role within that brine imparting flavor and tenderness. The traditional brine ratio is 1 cup of uniodized salt per gallon of water. If you are using stock, which will have some salt, reduce that amount. Then you can play with adding your tea leaves to the hot water when you add your other spices. If your taste runs more towards lamb or beef, consider a tea and spice rub.

If you are planning to use a canned cranberry sauce, then you MUST take a look at the cranberry and apple conserve made with black tea. It is quick and easy to make, and can be made days in advance, an ideal trait for holiday entertaining! If you enjoy eggnog during the holidays, then you will certainly enjoy our Pumpkin Chai Martini, which can be made with or without alcohol and blends in your favorite holiday flavors.

A classic English Trifle is rife for variation, so why not consider a Jasmine Pastry cream instead of the more traditional vanilla. It goes beautifully with berries, whipped cream and all of your trifle favorites. For me, this brings back wonderful memories, as the very first ‘Tea Cuisine’ recipe I dabbled with 15 years ago was a jasmine pastry cream. I used it in fresh fruit tarts at the time, but it is perfect for a classic, or not so classic, holiday trifle.

Keep in mind that most of the best utilizations of tea in cooking are subtle, so minor changes to your holiday traditions should not be startling to your guests; it may just have them wondering how you did it!

Cranberry Apple Preserves

This preserve is equally at home on the breakfast table or with your afternoon scones as it is on your Thanksgiving dinner table. It can also be made with pears in place of apples or a combination of apples and pears. For the black tea, Darjeeling, Ceylon and Keemun are excellent choices, but any black tea should give you a very good result. This recipe can be doubled or tripled easily, so make plenty to use and to share.

Yield: 4 cups preserves

  • 4 cups peeled and diced apples
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries, washed
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 limes
  • 3/4 cup triple strength black tea
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground ginger root
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Add all ingredients except the lime and ginger to a heavy pan. Bring to a boil over high heat and turn down to medium. Simmer, skimming the foam after about 5 minutes. Let simmer until the cranberries have burst and the apples or pears are tender, roughly 10 to 15 minutes. Add lime juice, zest and grated ginger. Simmer until thickened and remove from heat. Let cool. Process in a canner, or store covered in the refrigerator.

Darjeeling Roasted Sweet Potatoes

This easy recipe with intriguing, savory flavors is from the book “Culinary Tea” by Running Press/Perseus Books, which I wrote with Lise Stern. It incorporates two ingredients, which can be difficult to find without a convenient Asian market, so there are simple substitutions supplied. Amchoor is dried, powdered green mango, and black salt, or kala namak is a pinkish brown salt with a high sulfur content.

Yield: 8 servings

  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into .5 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoons amchoor or grated lime zest
  • 1/2 teaspoons black salt, tea-smoked salt or any sea salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons loose-leaf Darjeeling tea leaves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, toss the sweet potatoes with the oil and stir to coat. Add the amchoor (or lime zest) and salt. Crumble the tea leaves with your fingers, crushing them as you sprinkle them over the potatoes and stir well to distribute the tea and spices evenly.

Spread the potatoes in the prepared pan in an even layer. Bake for 10 minutes, stir, then continue to bake for an additional 10 to 20 minutes. Potatoes will be done when they are just slightly firm in the center. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Pumpkin Chai Martini

This recipe includes making a slow cooked Masala Chai base. There are endless possible variations that you can use, so feel free to tailor it to your personal tastes. Also, I strongly recommend making extra base as it can be used to blend with hot tea for a wonderful handmade Masala Chai tea. You can easily double or triple this recipe, and if chilled quickly when completed, it will last at least a week to ten days. If you have extra available, use this slow cooked tea and spice infused milk to replace some of the milk in your favorite French toast, waffle, bread pudding or pancake recipe for a fun and different holiday brunch dish.

For the pumpkin, simply put aside a small portion when you are making your holiday pumpkin pies and there will be no added work! When making those pies, I like to roast and puree fresh sugar pumpkins, but in this case, if you are only making the cocktails you need very little, so it makes sense to take a shortcut and use canned pumpkin.

Yield: 8 cups

  • 1 tablespoon loose leaf Assam, Nilgiri, Yunnan or other full-bodied black tea
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 cups Masala Chai Base
  • 1 quart eggnog
  • 1/2 cups brandy, cognac or rum or more to taste
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree

Steep the loose-leaf tea in the cup of boiling water for 5 minutes. Strain well and discard the tea leaves. Let cool.

Combine cooled tea, Masala Chai base, eggnog, alcohol and pumpkin puree. Whisk well and serve well chilled in martini glasses, garnished with a pinch of ground cinnamon or mace.

For an individual serving:

  • 2 tablespoons steeped tea
  • 1/4 cups Masala Chai base
  • 1/2 cups eggnog
  • 1/2 ounces brandy or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree

Shake with ice in a cocktail shaker and serve immediately strained into a chilled martini glass garnished with a pinch of ground cinnamon or mace.

Masala Chai Base

Yield: 4 cups

  • 2 strips of orange zest roughly 1/2 inch by 3 inches each
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon Allspice berries
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 star anise pods
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon whole cardamom pods, crushed to open
  • 6 quarter sized sliced of fresh ginger root
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 2 tablespoons loose leaf full-bodied black tea. Assam, Nilgiri, Keemun or Kenyan are good choices

Combine all ingredients except the tea leaves in a heavy saucepan. Bring just to a boil then immediately turn down to a low simmer for several hours, stirring periodically, until reduced by one third. A crock-pot on low can be a handy way to cook this. Add the tea leaves and continue to simmer as low as possible for another 30 minutes to an hour. Strain the reduced spiced tea milk into a bowl that you place into a second bowl filled with ice water. Use immediately, or refrigerate covered for up to 10 days.

Jasmine Trifle

A classic English style trifle is rife for variation as you choose your favorite fruits to include, whether or not to include preserves on your cake cubes, what to soak your cake in and how much to use, to include toasted almonds or not, to use sponge cake, genoise, ladyfingers or pound cake. Such wonderful decisions to be made! I’d like to add yet another variable to those difficult choices, consider a green tea and jasmine scented pastry cream instead of the traditional vanilla pastry cream, custard or pudding. If you already have a favorite recipe, then try this substitution. If you do not have a family favorite however, try all or parts of this recipe, and a new family tradition may be born this year.

If you have a classic Trifle bowl, that is ideal, but any large, clear bowl will work perfectly, and if your bowl isn’t clear, than your guests will just need to dig for buried treasure.

I’m using berries, but you should use any of your favorite fruits. Cherries, peaches, plums, kiwi and split grapes are all ideal. If you desire to use firmer fruit like pears or apples, you should lightly poach them first (in tea?) so that they are tender.

Yield: 12 servings

  • 1 pound cake, sponge cake or package of lady fingers, I use pound cake,.
  • 1 recipe of Jasmine Pastry Cream, cooled
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 pint raspberries
  • 1 pint blackberries
  • 1 quart strawberries
  • 1/4 cups sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 cups raspberry or blackberry preserves
  • 3 ounces (or more) Grand Marnier, sherry or brandy (optional)
  • 4 ounces almond slices, lightly toasted (optional)

Slice the cake horizontally into 1-inch layers. Sprinkle or brush with Grand Marnier or your chosen liqueur. If you prefer not to use alcohol, this is a perfect use for your tea simple syrups, or perhaps fruit juice. Spread the top of each layer with the preserves, and then cut into cubes, roughly 1 inch on a side. Place enough cubes into the bowl to cover the bottom well. Depending on the width of the bowl, you may be using all or only a portion of your cake cubes.

Set aside some of your berries to decorate the top of the trifle, then slice the remaining strawberries and toss them in a medium bowl with the other berries. Optionally toss the fruit with the 1/4 cup of sugar. If you used simple syrup instead of a liquor to moisten your cake, you may want to omit this sugar. Toss half the fruit into the bowl over the layer of moistened cake. Some people enjoy arranging cut fruit in a pattern to show through the glass sides. I tend to prefer a more naturally random look to the sides, but either approach will taste wonderful in the end. If you decide to use toasted almonds, sprinkle half in now.

Spoon the Jasmine Pastry Cream over the fruit and cake, making sure that it comes to the edges. If you have additional cake cubes, layer them over the Pastry Cream, then layer on the remaining cut and optionally sugared fruit.

Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Add the powdered sugar, and optionally a splash of the liquor that you soaked the cake with, then continue whipping until it forms stiff peaks. Spread the whipped cream over fruit reserving some to pipe onto the top if desired. Spread the cream flat and decorate with reserved fruit, toasted almonds (optionally) and remaining whipped cream. Set aside to chill and meld flavors for several hours, ideally overnight.

Jasmine Pastry Cream

This is a classic French Pastry Cream, which has been infused with Jasmine tea leaves. You can use this same approach to infuse tea into the dairy when making any style custard.

  • 2-1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons loose-leaf jasmine tealeaves
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Place the milk, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and the vanilla bean in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat to just boiling. Remove from heat and stir in tea leaves. Steep, covered, for 30 minutes or more to taste. Strain the milk and return it to the saucepan. Discard the tea leaves and vanilla bean.

While the tea steeps in the milk, whisk the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl with the remaining sugar. Whisk in flour until smooth. Reheat the jasmine infused milk over medium heat. Slowly pour the heated milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return the egg-milk mixture to the saucepan and continue to stir constantly with a wooden spoon over medium-low heat until smooth and thick, around 2 minutes more, remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla extract if you are using it, until fully incorporated. Pour through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps, pushing through as needed with the back of a ladle. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Poke the plastic in several places to allow the steam to escape. Let cool. May be used immediately or stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days.

Note that this was previously posted in November 2012


About Author

Cynthia Gold, Tea Sommelier, has discovered her true passion for tea after taking exciting journeys into the tea fields of China and Sri Lanka, where she uncovered the pure beauty of tea culture. Cynthia strives to bring "a culinary approach to tea" to the United States.

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