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Take Your Tea Sweet: Sweeteners of the World

Plenty of options...
Plenty of options...
During the 17th and early 18th centuries, English and American wooden tea chests were designed with lock and key because both tea and sugar were luxuries like gold or sterling. Today, teas are modest to expensive yet sugar is ubiquitous and cheap whether made from sugar cane or sugar beets.
SUGAR IS FOR MORE THAN BAKING CAKES Find it in pure white granulated form, in plain or decorated cubes, or in rocks on swizzle sticks to stir into the cup's liquor. Brown sugars are white sugars combined with molasses, have a softer texture than white, and come in both light and dark styles. Some to try are raw turbinado, which is from pure cane sugar extract spun in a cylinder or turbine. It is a pale brown with a more subtle molasses flavor. India brown jaggery, perhaps the most complexly flavored, has both the sucrose of white sugar and trace minerals. A staple in Indian cuisine, it adds a complex edge to teas, especially fruited blends and blacks. Coconut sugar is generally brown in appearance and has only a slight coconut flavor. You can find these sugars in either the bakery or the ethnic food aisles of most major grocery stores and in many health food stores. Try our white or amber rock crystals for a beautiful looking and very delicious way to sweeten your tea. With more than 300 possible choices in honeys, it's best to choose locally grown, and mild, like wild clover or orange blossom, so as not to overwhelm most teas. If an intense honey is your choice, like buckwheat, use it for blacks or black blends with fruits or flowers for the best combination. Other natural sweeteners are fresh or dried fruits, agave, maple syrup or fruit syrups. We're delighted to carry an American grown honey, Savannah Bee Company's Tea Honey. It adds a mellow rumor of sweetness to your favorites teas. (P.S. Pour it on your favorite Greek yogurt with a sprinkle of walnuts. YUM.) Sweetened evaporated or condensed milks are two ways to transform teas into milky luxurious desserts in a cup.
SWEETENING TEAS AROUND THE WORLD No self-respecting woman in the southern U.S. would ever host a visitor in her home without serving a glass of freshly-made sweet tea. It's part of their DNA more than the renowned hospitality gene of southerners. It's always made from black tea, and always with white sugar and plenty of it. No subtle green iced tea here with a whisper of agave! If you visit Russia today, you'll probably find mainly older people who drink in the old-style tradition, tea in a glass set in a decorative metal holder or a fine porcelain cup. Tea is made first into a concentrate using a black tea, like Russian Caravan or Lapsang Souchong-style, then hot water is continually added as more tea is desired. For sweetening, drinkers place either a partial teaspoon of jam or a sugar cube on the tongue and then drink hot tea. The sweetener is more intense this way than stirring it into the cup, but try it both ways. Tea drinkers in Turkey use glasses like the Russians, however, instead of being straight sided and clear, the glasses are tulip-shaped. They drink primarily black tea taken with two small sugar cubes when served in public. Many Turks do this kitlama style, like the Russians, by placing one lump of sugar between the tongue and cheek, before sipping their tea. Although they sometimes add lemon, milk is never used. The famous mint tea of Morocco is generally served by the male head of the household, a nod to the honor this demonstrates to guests. Although many recipe interpretations exists, most use a Chinese green tea like gunpowder mixed with fresh or dried mint leaves and one large lump of sugar and placed in a tall teapot with a long elegant spout. Hot water is then poured into the pot and the tea is steeped for several minutes. Standing up, the host pours the tea in a steady long stream into small decorative glasses. By pouring this way, the air is redolent with the combination of tea and mint and guests are immediately relaxed and ready for this lovely tea pleasure. Milk is, surprisingly, an ingredient in teas in Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam, countries where dairy products are fairly uncommon in the cuisine. In Malaysia, if you ask for tea (teh), you'll be served a milky sweet tea called the tarik (pulled tea) which is hot, or you could ask for the o ais, a sweet black iced tea. Don't want sugar? Ask for Chinese tea; always served plain whether black or green, hot or iced. When traveling in Thailand, you can enjoy Cha Yen, a black tea brewed with boiling water mixed with sweetened condensed milk served over ice topped with a dollop of evaporated milk and more sugar.A reddish orange food color is added. Cha Manao is brewed the same way but without the condensed milk. Instead fresh squeezed lime juice and sugar are added. Want it less sweet? Say am waan (not sweet). The custom of street vendors is to serve these teas in plastic bags, often with a straw. Sounds messy, and it is, however, you can always ask for a cup!
BUT, WHAT ABOUT CALORIES? Worried about calories? Don't be: a teaspoon of honey contains 23 calories and 6g of sugar; a level teaspoon of sugar, contains 16 calories and 4g of sugar. Diabetic? Add a tiny amount of dried or fresh fruit or lime or lemon for an extra kick. Both sugars and honeys are natural, contain no artificial anything and honey and jaggery even have desirable nutrients. NOTE: It's best not to use sweeteners with yellow or white teas as they are so delicate. Because of the wide range of oolongs, and their inherent floral fragrance and taste, they're best served plain. However, as Confucius said, "Let your palate be your guide."