Drinks

Beyond Broth

How and why you should make savory teas this winter
Savory Tea Trend in Restaurants
Savory tea brewed with wood chips and herbs | Photo: Katie Foster/Tasting Table

These brutally cold days, you'll find our hands semi permanently wrapped around mugs of warm, soothing beverages. But while a spot of tisane can be a lovely pick-me-up or wind-me-down, savory teas made from vegetables, spices and, yes, even meat are a new way to add flavor and warmth to your winter routine. It's not quite as simple as plunking a bag of Lipton into a cup of boiling water, but with a little advance planning, heady dinnertime teas are easy to brew at home.

In her new cookbook, Prune, New York chef Gabrielle Hamilton shares a recipe for Roasted Mixed Onions with Onion Butter and Toasted Seeds, which calls for an earthy, from-scratch tea made with boiled onion scraps.

Likewise, patrons who pay a visit to New York's Measure Lounge inside the Langham Place hotel can sip on chef David Vandenabeele's comforting Chicken Tea, made from poultry parts steeped with herbs, spices and egg yolks. The next day, the chef reboils and clarifies the liquid, and it takes on the familiar color and texture of tea.

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At Niche in St. Louis, chef/owner Gerard Craft once got his tasting menu off to an umami-packed start by pouring a stinging nettle tea into a chicken-fat-slicked cup tableside. The sequel: an equally meaty oak-bacon rendition. "I'm always stressed, and tea helps calm me down," Craft says. "I like to offer it at the beginning of the meal, so guests can settle in and relax."

To make the savory tea, Craft gently smokes oak chips from a local home-brew purveyor with water. "I wanted the flavor of wood, with all its naturally sweet properties—it's rich with vanilla notes," Craft explains. Then he cold-infuses the concoction for a good 12 hours, strains it, seasons it with salt, adds a wallop of pork fat and serves it in a dainty teacup along with a burst of lemon.

In your own kitchen, Craft suggests buying a bag of oak chips, immersing them in water and then placing the blend in the fridge; keep tasting it until it's as tannic and smoky as you like, then strain, heat and dress up with pork—voila, an unconventional liquid prelude to supper is served.

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