Sweet tooth vs Tea?

For general/other topics related to tea.

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Feb 12th, '10, 16:20
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Sweet tooth vs Tea?

by Tapar » Feb 12th, '10, 16:20


I am still really new to loose tea and am really enjoying the ride. I am still in that zone where it almost tastes like a totally different type of beverage when compared to the teabags I had been using. I find myself questioning lots of past preconceptions and I have been thinking about sweetener's quite a bit. I am not positive this is the right forum, but it seemed the most "general tea stuff" to me. :)

I would love to hear some opinions on various sweeteners or even not using sweeteners at all. I have always gravitated towards overly sweet drinks. I pretty much lived on Mountain Dew for years and years and with the bagged tea I went heavy on the sweetener. I like my coffee with cream and extra sugar too.

I started my bagged tea drinking with plain sugar. My father is diabetic and while visiting with him I discovered that splenda did not taste awful to me or have a nasty aftertaste. I found the splenda packets easier to deal with then loose sugar so I switched to using that. I would make a 16oz cup of bagged tea with 5 splenda packets to give you an idea of the sweet level I went after.

I have been experimenting with a variety of Adagio samplers and tried each of them without splenda before caving in and dousing them with splenda. I also experimented with plain sugar and with rock sugar. I don't really consider those experiments valid as I started with "not sweet enough" and ended up with "too sweet" never really finding that viable balance to make a fair test.

I did make myself drink a whole cup of darleeling #22 without any sweetener and it did not taste bad, just very different. I guess I find myself wondering if I should make the effort and try and develop a taste for unsweetened tea. It tastes wrong without the sweetener now, but I suspect that if I stuck with not using any it would eventually appeal to me in that form too. Anyone gone from syrupy sweet to unsweetened? If so I would love to hear how it went and why you made the switch.

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Feb 12th, '10, 16:31
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Re: Sweet tooth vs Tea?

by Chip » Feb 12th, '10, 16:31

This is always a hot button topic for a lot of members, so tread carefully, and remember we are all entitled to opinions. We do not have to agree on this topic. Funny thing, I almost left the forum over a similar topic that got too intense for my "tastes" as a newbie to TeaChat. I have taken from the experience that an ounce of tolerance on this topic is as sweet as honey!

I also would like to offer this before I go on. "Like what you drink and drink what you like." :mrgreen: This also applies to the whole sweetener topic.

I generally think that anytime we can cut back on the unnecessary addition of sugar type carbs, the better off we are.

Also I find sweeteners alter the taste of tea and for me and not in a positive way. I simply prefer the taste of tea straight up.

However, I will sweeten iced tea with a touch of honey for 2 reasons, it tastes pretty good, and it also acts as a natural preservative. This is particularly helpful when making Japanese green iced tea which tends to oxidize very quickly without some intervention. A touch of honey extends the shelf life to days versus hours.

Other than this, I simply see no need for me to use sweeteners in tea. :mrgreen:

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Feb 12th, '10, 16:56
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Re: Sweet tooth vs Tea?

by Amaikokonut » Feb 12th, '10, 16:56

I have occasionally tried to wean myself off the habit of dumping a ton of sugar in my black tea (it's nice that a good cup of tea helps to stop me from snacking, but it's not doing me a lot of favors when I'm pouring two spoons of sugar into each cup), and it's really not that hard if you just gradually add less and less sweetener until you're completely off it.

When I switched from bagged to loose tea I found it easier to tone down the sugar just so I could focus more on the flavor of the (much higher quality) tea. But what really got me off sugar completely was trying out green/oolong/white teas, several of which are best (in my opinion) with no sweetener anyway, though that's probably because I wasn't raised constantly drowning those in sugar like I was with black teas.

Still, occasionally I crave a good black chai laden with cream and sugar, and I happily indulge. But I save those for special occasions and stick with oolongs and whites when I'm just trying to stop snacking.

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Feb 12th, '10, 17:03
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Re: Sweet tooth vs Tea?

by msurads06 » Feb 12th, '10, 17:03

My advice would be to do like i have done and gradually cut back on the sugar. I switched from vanilla coke (the kind made by adding vanilla syrup to regular coke) to tea. At first i felt i needed two or three teaspoons in most of my teas, sometimes more, now if i add two teaspoons to a cup of tea, it is so sweet i literally cant drink it and it gets thrown out.

I have slowly cut back to about half a teaspoon (measuring teaspoon, not cereal spoon) per cup (5oz) of most teas. At that ammount maybe the addition is psycholoical, but i just havent yet been able to drink it without any sugar. I have tried splenda and stevia but both leave the tea undrinkable (in my opinion). Flavored teas and black teas seem to need more sugar to me, but whites and greens are ok with less.

I do feel like i can taste more of the subtle differences in the teas with less sugar, and hopefully one day i can stop using sugar alltogether. If you want to cut back on the sweetener start like this: if u usaually use 6 packets for example try cutting back to 5 once that starts to taste ok, cut back to four, etc.

I do agree with Chip, you have to like what you are drinking, no matter what anyone else says is right or wrong, just like brew times/temp/amount of leaves, there are general guidelines but you will eventually find what works best for YOU and that is what matters.

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Feb 12th, '10, 17:10
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Re: Sweet tooth vs Tea?

by LauraW » Feb 12th, '10, 17:10

I agree with Chip in almost every respect. We differ in enjoying cold tea (I can't stand it, sweet or unsweet). :wink:

That being said, there are certain kinds of teas that I prefer sweetened. Like you, I found plain table sugar to be... difficult. Like Chip, I find most sweeteners alter the tea in a way that I don't enjoy. But I will say that I found honey to be acceptable in most cases. I enjoy most teas unsweetened, but there are a couple that I've had (one particular cardamom ginger black tea comes to mind) that I can't physically drink without honey - it just doesn't taste right unless there's honey in it. And that's ok. Personally, I try to go without whenever possible because I do think it changes the flavor, but in some cases it's a good change.

If I don't enjoy a tea the first time, I tend to change the steeping time and temperature before I try adding anything to it to sweeten.

To each his own. To mine with honey!

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Feb 12th, '10, 21:11
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Re: Sweet tooth vs Tea?

by debunix » Feb 12th, '10, 21:11

If you want to decrease the sweetener in your tea, I'd recommend trying some naturally sweet and richly flavored teas, like the greener oolongs, because you're less likely to miss the sugar than with a cup of strong black tea.

The hands-down sweetest I've encountered was a spring harvest Tie Guan Yin from Norbutea, but that is now sold out. I also found the spring harvest Ali Shan to be very sweet, and that one is now discounted here http://www.norbutea.com/AlishanOolong_S ... gory_id=60.

I had some similar delicious stuff from Chado, and Harney & Sons, and suspect most good tea vendors can connect you with something that even someone with a sweet tooth might not want to sweeten....much.

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Feb 12th, '10, 21:54
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Re: Sweet tooth vs Tea?

by ABx » Feb 12th, '10, 21:54

Personally, I found that simply paying close attention to how the tea tastes and smells, and working to improve my brewing, resulted in my tapering off of sugar without even trying :)

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Feb 13th, '10, 15:20
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Re: Sweet tooth vs Tea?

by kymidwife » Feb 13th, '10, 15:20

You asked if anyone has transitioned from syrup-sweet to unsweetened... so I am chiming in, as that is exactly what I did.

Background for me is that I came from a long history of drinking lots of very sweet drinks, primarily Coke and southern sweet tea. I made a good strong pitcher of sweet black tea with 2 (yes, I know) cups of white sugar per gallon. I was drinking 3 to 4 quarts of this stuff every day! Over a year or so, I'd gained about 10 pounds I wanted to take off, so I targeted the sugar in my tea as a way to eliminate a considerable amount of daily calories. I switched to artificial sweeteners... never developed a taste for Splenda, and couldn't get the right sweet taste for a while, but after experimenting, I finally arrived on a mixture of 2 packets Equal and 1 packet Sweet and Low per about 32 oz. of tea. Reallllly sweet. Makes me shudder now to think of it.

I got off the artificial sweeteners around the same time that I really started exploring loose tea... coinciding with my discovering Adagio and TeaChat. My reasons for stopping these sweeteners were several... first, I had a weird medical episode that we couldn't figure out for the longest time, and after tons of research on everything from vitamin deficiencies to poisons to tick bites to artificial sweeteners... I didn't like what I learned about Equal and Sweet and Low. I was partially worried about health concerns, and I was partially stunned to learn about the weight-gain implications for people who use lots of artificial sweeteners. Since weight control was my main reason for using them, and since I didn't notice any substantial weight loss when I switched from sugar, and since evidence suggests that artificial sweeteners may stimulate carb cravings... well, anyway, I knew I wanted them out of my diet.

It was good timing for me, because I'd ordered a ton of samples from Adagio, and I was learning from members here about the different characteristics in tea flavors, all of which I had been masking with sugar or sweeteners, to the point that assam tasted the same as ceylon to me. When I started tasting them unsweetened, it was like having a whole new beverage with nuances I'd never even imagined. I also lost about 8 lbs. :D

That being said... I still sweeten iced tea sometimes... but only lightly, and only with sugar, no more artificial sweeteners for me these days. I don't sweeten hot tea at all, except for occasional chai blends. So that's my "why and how" story.



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Feb 13th, '10, 16:35
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Re: Sweet tooth vs Tea?

by Victoria » Feb 13th, '10, 16:35

There are so many health concerns related to artificial sweeteners, it is definitely worth it to try to do without. The natural flavor of tea in its many forms is ever changing. I am very fortunate I never had a taste for sweet tea. I came from lots of coffee consumption, coffee with artificial creamer. The artificial creamer was what I needed to get rid of. Although I still enjoy a cup now and then. But I so much more prefer tea.

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Feb 13th, '10, 18:36
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Re: Sweet tooth vs Tea?

by Tapar » Feb 13th, '10, 18:36

That is really interesting, I would not have guessed that it would be a hot button topic. In hindsight I can see it though, and will don my slippers of treading lightly. lol.

It makes sense to me that green tea or the greener teas might not pair as well with sweetness. That is probably why my preference has always been with the darker teas. I imagine that if I cut back the sweetness in my dark teas I will find my taste expanding to include green teas as well, though that is pure speculation.

I have been struggling to figure out how to describe an element of drinking tea sweetened vs unsweetened that had factored into my thought process. I want to call it the 'feel of the tea in my mouth' or something. It feels like I use a different process to swallow the tea when it is sweetened vs unsweetened, almost like different muscles are used. That is not a great description, but unsweetened tea feels flat and ruff in my mouth. The tea that has been sweetened feels more airy and and smooth and is more drinkable than sip-able. I have just now realized that is probably because I use different taste-buds for the sweet tea! I think I feel the need to pull out my mad scientist hat, do some research, and run some experiments. Muhahaha! er, sorry. :)

I have to admit that going through such an insane amount of splenda does leave me a bit concerned that it really can't be that healthy. I also really dislike throwing out the empty packets, they can act like confetti and make a huge mess if you are not extra cautious when disposing of them.

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Feb 13th, '10, 20:06
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Re: Sweet tooth vs Tea?

by mbishop » Feb 13th, '10, 20:06

I literally drank only Sprite for about 20 years, until bad genes/bad upkeep/bad diet (Sprite in particular) caused my teeth to really fall apart, and I got an abscessed tooth (worst pain ever). I went to the dentist and had all kinds of work done (two teeth pulled, 4 root canals (at the same time!), and a bunch of cosmetic work) and have since stopped drinking Sprite totally. I don't drink any soda at all anymore. I only drink fruit juice (only natural fruit juice, no added sugars), milk, water, and of course tea. Once I cut out all those sugary drinks and such, I found that I can't stand them anymore. It's like drinking sugar water. It's just nasty to me now.

My teas of choice are Japanese greens, and they require no sugar or additives of any kind to be delicious.

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Feb 14th, '10, 14:34
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Re: Sweet tooth vs Tea?

by rhondabee » Feb 14th, '10, 14:34

Chip wrote: However, I will sweeten iced tea with a touch of honey for 2 reasons, it tastes pretty good, and it also acts as a natural preservative. This is particularly helpful when making Japanese green iced tea which tends to oxidize very quickly without some intervention. A touch of honey extends the shelf life to days versus hours.


Thanks for the tip! I've never thought of using honey to preserve iced tea. I will remember that for this summer.

As far as sweetening tea, I grew up drinking sweetened ice tea. But when I first tried loose leaf hot tea, I never thought to add sugar, because it was oolong, and I was told that no sugar or milk should be added to oolong as that is not the way people drink it. So I tried it unsweetened and liked it that way. I think if you want to try to go from sweetened to unsweetened, you would have to do it gradually. Each time add a little less sugar, until your taste buds adjust to no sugar.

Feb 19th, '10, 18:40
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Re: Sweet tooth vs Tea?

by Skippyandjif » Feb 19th, '10, 18:40

Basically, I really have no preference-- it depends upon whether I crave something sweet or not. I do drink sweetened tea more often than not, although this is probably the fault of being introduced to green tea ice cream and sweetened black tea as a really little kid (those were my first experiences with tea).

I tend to like drinking unsweetened tea with meals. And I agree with all the people on here who like unsweetened green tea-- unsweetened matcha is amazing!! It has a really nutty and vegetal taste that would probably be covered up by sugar.

Anyway, though, the most important thing is to drink what you like. Drinking tea is all about feeling good. :)

Feb 20th, '10, 01:20
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Re: Sweet tooth vs Tea?

by s(tea)ven » Feb 20th, '10, 01:20

I used to drink a lot of sweetened tea and soda. Before I actually got into real tea, I drank a LOT of Lipton peach and raspberry flavored iced tea, Snapple, etc. Then I discovered Tejava iced tea. I fell in love. It was exactly the opposite of what I had been drinking, but I really liked it. Then I moved onto coffee. I developed a liking to coffee and would drink it every day. It was mostly plain black coffee with no cream of sugar. As time went on, I found that I liked cream in my coffee, but still no sugar. Then I discovered Caffe Mocha and drank that almost every day at school. That got pretty expensive at $3.50 per cup, especially for a college student. Fast forward a year or so and one day I had some sort of nasty stomach/intestinal thing going on. I missed 2 of my classes that day and decided to try some tea hoping that would make my stomach feel a bit better. Coffee was the LAST thing on my mind. That's when I discovered Chamomile tea and fell in love.

I drank the bagged stuff from the store for a long time. Every morning before my 8:00am class I would grab a chamomile tea and a chocolate chip muffin. I didn't realize that Chamomile makes you sleepy, no wonder I could barely stay awake in class. I also started trying black teas (that Stash brand garbage) I liked it but I was going through so many of those bags per day! It was quite a while until I did some googling and learned about loose leaf tea. So I searched "loose leaf tea" and found Adagio. I learned that loose leaf is waaaay better than the bagged stuff. Now I won't drink bagged tea.

I never sweetened the tea that I bought. I liked the natural flavors. After buying some sweeter teas from Teavana I figured I'd give it a try so I bought a sample of the rock sugar from Adagio. Now I only sweeten tea that is already pretty sweet. The fruity blends from Teavana I sweeten, but not a ton. I was never really into sweets that much. (I practically never eat candy)

I never sweeten regular tea because I like the natural flavors. When I do sweeten those fruity teas, I only use the rock sugar, although I have gotten pretty curious about agave lately...

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Feb 22nd, '10, 16:02
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Re: Sweet tooth vs Tea?

by beachape » Feb 22nd, '10, 16:02

Never sweetened my tea. Maybe try something with some Unami to it. Some teas taste empty or watery without sugar. Esspecially herbal things. Maybe some good Japanese green would work for you.

Personally I hate how everyhing in America is so sugar laden. I like desserts and such but so many things are just too sweet. Also any bottled tea here tastes like syrup. You can get bottled tea in Asia but it just has a touch of sweetener. Wish that was more popular here.

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