Tea Is All You Need To Totally Elevate Pantry Grains

Think beyond the box of broth in your pantry when you are ready to cook grains. Tea is the savory liquid addition you've been missing and it could not be easier to incorporate! Whether you're cooking rice, quinoa, or whole grains like farro, adding flavorful cooking liquid is nearly always recommended, even if it's just salted water. Although we often think of cooking risotto and paella with flavorful broths, other grains get less attention. The taste of starchy grains is improved with the help of a background flavor, and tea is perfectly complimentary without being overwhelming.

Tea is a simple flavor addition. Whole-leaf tea can be steeped in advance, strained, and added as the cooking liquid or finely ground tea can be added directly to the cooking pot. Far from being a one-note wonder, there are so many different flavors of tea to consider. True teas come from one plant family, but they gain complexity from the way they are harvested and handled after. Deeply flavored black tea, complex green tea, and delicate white tea are only the starting point. Think of floral jasmine tea, citrusy Earl Grey, and smoky lapsang souchong as well. Then there are all of the herbal teas, from mint, chamomile, and hibiscus –- really there is no end to the number of flavors you can add when cooking grains with tea.

Get creative with flavor combinations

Cooks in Japan already use flavorful green tea to elevate leftover rice, why not start with tea infused into the cooking process? White rice and green or white tea are great companion flavors because the lighter tea flavors match the mild rice flavor. Matcha, which is finely ground green tea, can be stirred into lighter-colored grains after cooking for a pop of color and herbal flavor. Heartier flavors like quinoa and whole buckwheat stand up to the deep richness of pu-erh tea, which is partially fermented and has nutty, woody notes. Think of how you'll serve your prepared grain too; herb-forward tabouleh with mint tea steeped cracked wheat for example. Or bright pink hibiscus tea added to rice for citrusy rice pilaf.

Of course, water is not the only medium to carry tea flavors – we all love delicious milk teas. Imagine your next batch of overnight oats with Earl Grey-infused milk, or a spicy chai blend. Steep smoky lapsang souchong tea in the milk for your next batch of grits when you've got shrimp and grits on the menu. Flavoring your grains with tea is a great way to liven up your cooking with some fresh new ideas!