As traditionalists, we rarely add sugar to our teas, but we’re asked about the possibility often during tastings. To be fair, tea has a long standing reputation as a bitter alternative to more indulgent beverages, so we understand the urge to sweeten your cup. But we highly recommend taking at least a taste of your tea before dropping in the first teaspoon of honey or sugar. Here are five good reasons to give it a try.
1. Tea is a naturally healthy treat.
Almost any type of tea offers nutritional and antioxidant benefits for your body, but additives like sugar and milk can offset these natural advantages. In fact, studies have shown that added milk (even from non-dairy sources) actively reduces recorded health benefits, while sugar adds unnecessary calories. Once accustomed to sweetening teas, however, it can be difficult to stop, especially if the tea in question comes in a mass-produced tea bag from the grocery store. Instead, try switching to a totally different type; ideally a high quality option that is easy to brew without bitterness. This way, your cup will feel indulgent, even without the additives.
2. Avoid the crash.
We all know the feeling of a sugar rush, followed shortly by plummeting energy levels - and another cup of sweetened tea as a pick-me-up. Instead of falling victim to this roller coaster effect, let tea’s natural combination of caffeine and L-theanine provide you with focused energy throughout the day. In particular, L-theanine is one of our favorite beneficial compounds that exists in every tea, and has been shown to reduce stress, induce relaxation, and improve sleep. In combination with the energy boost from trusty caffeine (also a naturally occurring component of all traditional teas), L-theanine can boost cognitive performance and improve overall productivity.
3. Save money with multiple infusions
Hand crafted teas sold in loose leaf form may feel like a treat to save for a special occasion, but perspective is key. While a pound of coffee may barely get a heavy drinker through the week, a pound of tea will usually last about four months for a daily drinker. In addition, any whole leaf tea without added flavorings can be brewed multiple times, meaning each of those daily servings will yield at least 3 full cups of drinkable tea. For true tea-heads, this isn’t even a question of frugality: many will toss the first infusion in favor of the second or third, as the leaves unfurl and release fuller flavor in these later infusions. Don’t stop after three, either, since many high quality teas will yield more than five brews before losing flavor intensity.
4. Simplify the brewing process
Brewing a cup of tea should be simple, but adding sugar and milk can make it unnecessarily complex and frankly, sticky. Instead, pick a high quality tea bag like our RBT line, packed with single-origin teas, or try brewing loose leaves. Even the most complicated process for brewing traditional teas, called gong fu cha, can be summarized in two steps: pour water into the brewing vessel, and pour the tea out into a cup. If two tea dishes seems difficult, simplify even further by brewing your whole, loose leaves “grandpa style” and letting them settle to the bottom of your cup before sipping from the top. Don’t forget to add more water to the bottom of your cup for multiple infusions!
5. Taste your tea.
Ultimately, we recommend foregoing sugar because it hides the taste of the tea, which is what we’re all here for. The huge variety of flavor in the world of tea can be traced back to subtle differences in the growing conditions, tea plant variety, harvest date, and crafting style - all of which combine to create endless layers of flavor in a finished tea, and all of which can be utterly lost under a packet of sugar. In our experience, sipping without sugar is key to fully appreciating great teas.
Do you drink your tea with or without sugar? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
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