We’re a little confused by the last few words of your question – “the small type.” We were pretty sure you were talking about anise, or aniseed, or sweet cumin. The leaves can be used in cooking, but more commonly the seeds are used whole or ground. There is another spice, though, where you can use its large pod or just the individual seeds, and it is confusing because not only is the taste similar (a licorice flavor), but the name is, as well – star anise. And your reference to “the small type” might fit star anise seeds better than ground aniseed (see how confusing it is?).
Botanically, the plants are entirely different. Aniseed is a member of the parsley family and native to the Eastern Mediterranean. Nowadays it grows in all warm climates. Anethole is the oil that accounts for the distinctive sweet-licorice taste. Both the leaves and the seeds have this flavoring, which is used in breads, cakes, and confections in parts of Europe and the Middle East, in curry and seafood dishes in India and neighboring countries, in various dishes in Southeast Asia, and as the flavoring of such alcoholic drinks as the French pastis and Greek ouzo. It is also chewed after a meal in India to sweeten the breath. And, yes, the seeds are used whole or ground.
Star anise is the fruit of a small evergreen tree native to southwest China, and now also grown in Japan and Southeast Asia. The plant puts out a small star-shaped fruit with (generally) eight points, and a seed is contained in each of the points. Star anise can be used whole as a flavoring, its seeds can be used as a flavoring, and both can be ground. It is the dominant flavor in Chinese five-spice powder. It has been used in Asia to flavor pork and chicken, in teas, and as a seasoning, and, with the advent of fusion cuisine, has spread around the globe. Like aniseed, its flavor comes primarily from the anethole oil, but it is considered more bitter than aniseed.
So whichever anise you have and wish to cook with, we agree that it is difficult to stumble upon appropriate recipes. It is especially difficult to hunt online, where recipe search engines do not differentiate very well between whole aniseed, ground ainseed, anise extract, star anise, ground star anise, and liqueurs made from some anise product. We’re not going to do all the work for you, but a few we came across that appear to use whole aniseeds are Chicken Mole, the Moroccan pastry Selloh, Honey Bread, and the Mexican dessert Capirotada. If what you have is really whole star anise, a few choices are Grandma Aki’s Oxtails, Star-Anise Peel with Snow Peas, and Beef Stewed with Cinnamon and Star Anise. You’ll find many more if you look.
Now, tell us in the US what a Kitchen Tea is.