Do you drink tea with added sugars? For the majority of the world, the answer is yes. Whether it means stirring a teaspoon of white sugar into a mug of black tea or sipping a prepared iced tea from a bottle, most teas are served with sweeteners.
But in the grander scale of tea history, additives like sugar (and milk) are recent developments. In fact, traditional teas represent thousands of years of effort, all devoted to cultivating leaves that taste good on their own. Over time, tea farmers and crafters have transformed tea from an unpleasant medicinal herb to a popular daily beverage, beloved all over the world.
With that said, we understand the urge to drop a teaspoon or two of sugar into your breakfast blend. Not all teas can live up to the lofty flavor ideals of traditional tea crafters, and modern palates are trained to expect sweetness. Nevertheless, we think tea deserves a chance to be appreciated without sugar, and today we’ve got 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. Sugar in any beverage adds empty calories, and studies have shown that added milk (even from non-dairy sources) actively reduces recorded health benefits.
But once accustomed to sweetening teas, it can be difficult to stop, especially if your go-to brew 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, every 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.
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, all while avoiding the wild ride of a sugar rush.
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 quality flavor is more affordable than you might think. 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, keep things clean with a tea that tastes good on its own. Try tea bags that use high quality leaves (like our RBT collection), use a teapot and cup for simple gong fu tea service, or go old-school with loose leaves directly in your mug.
In general, the better the quality of your tea leaves, the easier it is to brew. Whole leaves will release astringent tannins more slowly, while teas picked in the springtime will have more natural sugars and fewer bitter flavor compounds overall. Even mass produced tea bags can often be improved simply by paying attention to steeping time and water temperature. Skip the sugar dish, keep the spoons clean, and finally...
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, after all. 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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