Shades of Tea

By Dana Nahai

5,000 years of history has offered this world quite a bit of tea. It is considered as essential as salt for many, and we often forget its importance in this land of gastronomic abundance. People have been harvesting, trading, and fighting over these leaves since the birth of written history, and the simmering kettle evolved long ago as a universal sign of comfort and hospitality.

I grew up drinking my tea cold and sweet. With a backyard of palm trees it was hardly ever cold enough to warrant boiling a pot of anything, and hot tea was reserved for those rare days the thermostat dipped below fifty. Our house tea was brewed in a large glass jug in the sun, seasoned with an unreasonable amount of lemon and sugar, and presented over an army of ice cubes. No guest was without one in hand.

I married into a family of real tea drinkers. For these hospitable sort the kettle is always on, and they make their tea by concentrate ensuring a steaming cup for all at their fingertips. The first time I drank (choked down) tea from concentrate I had the unfortunate experience of not knowing about the essential step of blending and served my cup straight from the top of the samovar thinking I had encountered the Persian version of Turkish coffee. Tea concentrate is meant to be blended with boiling water contributing to differing shades of color; this allows for variations in flavor and caffeine intensity based on personal preference. After a decade with my husband’s tribe I have barely come to understand the shades and customs of their tea, but have happily adopted the habit of getting the kettle going when a friendly face walks through the door.

The Mariage brothers of Paris began importing Asian tea in the early 19th century thereby propelling a tea aesthetic in the West that continues to this day. Their contemporary tea houses offer not only thousands of varieties of crisply fragranced cups, but also several courses of foods cooked with tea. After my own delightful experience with their preparations I was left thinking of all the leftover tea from my own kettle that normally gets washed down the drain.

Inspiration to cook can come from anywhere. The below recipe began with last Sundays afternoon cup of tea. As always, feel free to alter the ingredients to your taste and create your own shade of tea.

Fish roasted with tea broth

You can make a concentrate of tea by steeping a pouch of black tea in a half cup (4 oz) of water for five minutes. For the below recipe you will need half of this amount. Make sure your concentrate is freshly brewed or your broth will tend toward the acidic or bitter side. Allow that the oven dish is large and shallow enough so that you end up with roasted fish instead of poached. A thicker fish fillet will allow for more basting time and better flavoring. (I used cod- again.) This recipe served three at my table.

black tea concentrate, 1/4 cup

rice wine vinegar, 3 tbsp

sesame oil, 2 tbsp

honey, 2 tbsp

fresh garlic, 2 cloves minced

red pepper, 1/4 tsp ground

salt, 1 tsp

mild flavored fish (like cod or sole), 1 & 1/2 lbs

carrots, 6 large, julienned or sliced

spring garlic or green onions, 1 bunch, julienned or sliced

cooking oil

salt and pepper

-Preheat your oven to 400F.

-Whisk the first group of ingredients together in a bowl.

-Place fish in a roasting pan, cover with broth.

-Meanwhile warm a saute pan over medium heat, add cooking oil and saute the vegetables with seasoning to your taste. Take care to not overcook. Set aside.

-Place fish in oven and reduce heat to 375F.

-Baste fish every few minutes with broth; total roasting time will be anywhere from 10-15 minutes depending on your size of fillet to start.

-Remove from oven and top with warm vegetables.

-Serve your dish hot with a side of steamed basmati rice. Breathe in the scent of your new version of tea.

About the author : Writer, blogger, and eater of all things good, Dana Nahai is a Dietitian committed to encouraging people to elevate their kitchen instincts. Her blog,, works to inspire one nourishing meal at a time through real foods, basic culinary techniques, and story-telling. Dana’s mantra is “room in the heart, room at the table”, and for her there is no better than a house full of people alongside tables heaving with food. You can find her, belly to the stove, in her Midtown kitchen where she pumps out the daily special for her multicultural family tree.”

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