Tea has been a popular beverage for thousands of years, but pastry chef David Booth says cooks are just beginning to fully appreciate tea as an ingredient.
"Tea is a unique flavor," says Booth, who's leading a program on tea-infused pastries at next weekend's Victoria Tea Festival. Billed as the continent's biggest tea exhibition, the festival features 45 exhibitors and presentations covering tea cocktails; tea etiquette; tea tasting; tea blending and the medicinal properties of tea.
Booth, owner of Terrible Truffles in Victoria, is preparing jasmine shortbread and strawberry-chamomile custard for the event. He's also contemplating a new truffle. "Maybe something smoky," he says. "I'm always flying by the seat of my pants."
While he was hesitant to reveal any of the secrets he plans to share with festival-goers, Booth says he will tackle a few of the debates surrounding tea leaves in the kitchen, including whether to cold or hot process, and how finely the tea should be strained.
"You could let all the leaf stay in and eat it, or you could strain it all out," Booth says. "Personally, I don't mind a little texture, but if it's a whipped cream or a mousse, I like smoothness."
There's also an enduring question regarding pairings: Should an Earl Grey cupcake be served with a cup of Early Grey, or matched to another tea?
"It would be interesting to have an Early Grey pastry with a Lapsang Oolong," Booth says. "But would you drink two different teas together?"
The Victoria Tea Festival runs Feb.18-19. The event is a fundraiser for Camosun College Child Care Services.