Last week I was invited by the tea brand Dilmah to participate in the first ‘School of Tea’ in the Netherlands. In the majestic Landgoed Duin & Kruidberg I drank countless cups (or to be precise: wine glasses) of tea, tasted numerous creative flavor combinations and most of all: intensively improved my knowledge of tea.
The Dilmah School of Tea usually takes place in Sri Lanka, over the course of four days. And although we only had one day of classes, the fairly intensive program completely compensated that lack of time. Several employees of Dilmah – amongst them owner Merill J. Fernando and his son Dilhan* – were flown in to speak about their products. “It is tea, but not as you know it.”
There were talks about the history of tea: from the alleged discovery by the Chinese emperor Shen Nung to tea as a currency and the American invention of tea bags. About the production process, that’s incredibly intensive and precise because: “quicker is not the right way”. That professional tea tasters taste about 10.000 different teas each month, every tea with its own aroma and strength. About the different kinds of tea that exist, from the almost unprocessed delicate white tea to fermented black tea. And about the importance of sharing all of this knowledge, because there seems to be a new generation engaging in tea like never before. It’s a generation with “a thirst for information”, according to Dilhan Fernando.
The program components that focused on tea-food combinations were my favorite. Dutch ‘queen of cheese’ Betty Koster spoke passionately about “building bridges” between cheese and tea. I found it amazing to experience just how wonderful those pairings can be. The combination of the salty French Roquefort Caves Baragnaudes with smokey black Ceylon Souchong was just sublime. And green jasmine tea turned out to be delicious paired with the goat cheese Charolais d’Argolay, because of their mutual flowery character.
Chef Jeroen van Ooijen and pastry chef Hidde de Brabander were also inspired by tea. Jeroen presented a modern deconstructed version of the Dutch “snert” soep, consisting of a Ceylon Souchong dashi with pea mayonnaise, pickled leeks and pork belly. Hidde created a gorgeous dessert with pear marinated in a mixture of yuzu, cane sugar and green tea with chocolate and gold leaf.
After the School of Tea I was also inspired to use tea in my cooking more often and that is how I came up with the recipe for these waffles. The basic recipe is fairly simple, but a few additions make them much more special. The spicy Chai really complements the sweet banana and the hazelnut milk adds a pleasant nutty accent. This creates delicious waffles: they’re nice and crispy, with a subtle sweetness and also very satisfying because of the use of oat flour. Two of these make a great breakfast, but they’re just as good as a snack.
You can easily use normal/whole wheat/ spelt flour instead of the oat flour if that’s what you like or have on hand. And instead of the hazelnut milk (I used the creamy and pretty sweet version of Alpro) you could also use any other kind of milk, but then add a little sugar or honey to taste.
I like to serve these waffles with a scoop of ricotta/thick yogurt and sliced banana, but they’re also lovely with some cinnamon sugar or maple syrup. Good to know is that these waffles can be easily freezed. Just reheat them while frozen in your waffle maker (or toaster) and they taste perfect.
* fun fact: the name Dilmah is a combination of Dilhan and Malik, the two sons of owner Merill Fernando.
1 cup (240 ml) hazelnut milk (or milk of choice + some honey/sugar)
1 Chai tea bag
1 ½ cup (130g) oat flour (or flour of choice)
½ tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
3 tbsp melted butter or coconut oil
1. Heat the milk in a pan, put in the tea bag and then turn the heat off. Let the tea infuse the milk for at least 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, mix the oat flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
3. Throughly mash the banana in another bowl. Add the eggs and melted butter/oil. Combine wet and dry ingredients quickly.
4. Then pour in the infused milk and mix everything until just combined. Leave to stand for a few minutes while you preheat the waffle maker.
5. Brush the grids of your hot waffle maker with some butter or coconut oil. Add about 1/3 cup of batter (depending on the size of your iron) and close the lid. Bake for about 2 minutes, or until golden brown and done.