Celebrate Memorial Day with tea

Memorial Day is right around the corner! This means the school is almost done, the pools are open and the BBQ season is about to kick in! During the past year of lockdowns we learned a lot of DIY things and mastered the art of making beautiful moments out of nothing. Some people we know have been drinking lots of tea and stocking up on new blends to try. How about bringing all the new skills (and supplies) out and making something new: a tea inspired BBQ! 

Truth be told, our grill has rusted through from sitting on the deck all year long, unused as we were stranded overseas, so we’ll be inaugurating its younger brother, a cuisine art portable version. It’ll be a great practice for our neighborhood campout next weekend as well.

memorial day BBQ


When you think of tea in summertime, you might just think of a nice iced tea to drink with your barbecue, but did you know that you can incorporate tea into your summer cooking as well?

Here are three simple ways to incorporate tea into your barbecue:

Include it in your BBQ rub 

Grind your tea leaves finely with a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, and combine with your favorite rub ingredients such as brown sugar, cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic, salt, or rosemary. Tea has tenderizing effects, so more than just the flavor will be impacted by using tea leaves! The tea boosts the umami flavor for any protein you choose.

If you like a particularly smoky piece of meat, we recommend using a slightly smoky black tea, such as Lapsang Souchong. Earl Grey is also a popular option. As a Nilgiris tea company, we opted for a strong Nilgiris orange pekoe. 

Smoky Tea BBQ Rub (enough for 4-5 servings)

½ cup black tea

¼ cup salt

¼ cup dried garlic

¼ cup chili powder

3 Tablespoons light brown sugar

Grind the tea to a fine powder in a spice grinder. Add to a large bowl and stir in the remaining ingredients. Sprinkle the rub on your protein of choice (I love this rub on steaks and burgers). Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour. Unwrap, and cook as desired. I’d recommend grilling, searing in a cast-iron pan, or using a broiler if possible. You can easily put this rub together in advance, and keep in in an airtight container to use all summer long.

grilling with tea, tea spice rub, memorial day

Incorporate it in your marinade

Concentrate your tea, then add complementary spices to round your marinade before soaking your meat. Steeped tea used in your favorite brines helps keep your meat and poultry moist while adding depth of flavor and brightness. Ground tea is a natural in your dry spice rubs or steeped into your wet marinades. Even desserts can combine your favorite teas and then grill to perfection. 

To include oolong tea in your marinade, steep 2 tablespoons of our organic loose oolong tea in 8oz water for 3-5 minutes. We find the earthy flavor of the Nilgiris oolong mixes well with beef and pork. Consider using a floral tea marinade for your chicken dishes – for instance, lavender, lemongrass and rosemary.

Sweet and Tangy Tea Marinade (makes 2 large chicken breasts)

1 cup water

1/2 cup ice

3 tbsp. black tea of choice

¼ cup honey

1 large garlic clove, roughly chopped

1 tbsp. chopped fresh ginger

1 tsp pepper

2 tsp salt

2 tbsp. soy sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

Heat water in a small pot until boiling. Turn off heat and add the tea. Steep for 8 minutes, then strain into a heat-proof bowl. Add the honey and stir until dissolved. Add the ice, and allow mixture to cool. Add salt, garlic, pepper, soy, ginger, and sesame oil. I like to use this marinade on chicken breasts, leaving it in the fridge overnight. When ready to cook, remove the chicken and discard the remaining marinade. Grill, or cook as desired.

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Smoke your barbecue with tea

Either pour concentrated brewed tea directly onto the coals, or use leftover tea leaves scattered over the coals before smoking your meat. We love using teas with cinnamon (especially finely ground chai) to include in smoked recipes. Cinnamon Spice combines black tea with cinnamon and clove in a strong blend. Try our new Organic Nilgiris Chai for a mix of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, pepper and ginger with a black tea base.

tea bbq, happy memorial day, tea recipes

Last thing before you sit back to enjoy your meal, brew a large pot of iced or hot tea for your company. White, oolong, rose, hibiscus or fruit flavored teas are some of our favorite Memorial Day picks, but choices are truly unlimited!

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