Can Tea taste good without adding sweeteners, etc?
I’ve been reading a lot of threads and such, but I can’t seem to get a straight answer as to whether tea actually taste good without the use of sweeteners. I’m looking to mostly pick it up for the health benefits, in addition with my workout routine trying to get rid of the empty calories (cokes etc). So far whatever I’ve tried taste bland or bitter. I’ve solved most of the bitter tea problems (having a hot water boiler, and figuring out tricks to hit 160 degrees to near boiling helps with that). However taste wise, best I’ve gotten is kinda sucky water.
I’ve varied the temperatures between 160 and 180 usually
I’ve tried changing between various steep times (1-5 minutes)
Tried a few different tea types and brands (Black, Green, etc)
All in all though there’s not much taste or it’s bitter (though they smell good at least). Keep in mind this has been all with only tea bag style teas, I was hoping it would give me a indication as to what higher grade tea taste like. So I figure that tea leaves would be my next step up, but I didn’t want to try to use tea leaves and find out it’s more of the same. So I’m hoping I can get a more clear concise answer. If it turns out that’s it’s a nope for the most part, I figure I’ll just go with green tea powder more for the health benefits of ingesting verse steeping tea.
One Exception: There is one tea that overall I’ve liked in terms of it’s being better than water factor and that is Corn Tea, I’ve found it to be pretty refreshing and thirst quenching. Though at the same time could be considered not tea anyways.
Absolutely yes it can! In fact it’s much better when not loaded with sugar or milk or syrup or cream or stevia or what have you. Because then you can actually taste the tea. For me adding sugar actually enhances astringency, even in an otherwise non-astringent tea.
What it sounds like you have done, though, is to start with tea of a fairly low quality. You don’t specify which one you’ve tried, but that’s what it sounds like to me. A brand like Lipton for example, a HUGE and popular brand (with the average consumer, that is. They’re not super-popular here), is actually not really of a very good quality. It’s very difficult, probably almost impossible to produce tea of a good quality in the mass-produced amounts that Lipton puts out every year. Furthermore, a brand like Lipton are likely to reblend the production all the time to ensure that the flavour is consistent. They rely on getting the customers to be familiar with a particular flavour and come back for that exact flavour. So if you’ve tried a mass-produced bag in multiple ways and just can’t seem to make it work, my advice is to give it up and try something else.
I don’t know if Lipton or whichever brand you have tried commits this particular sin, but there is a huge brand of the same ilk where I live who will put the same instructions for brewing on all their boxes, of all their bags, and of all types of tea. Yes, they actually recommend using boiling water on green and white tea. That sound you just heard was Steepsterites fainting from shock.
Obviously this sort of instruction is dead wrong. You want boiling water on black tea, and a lower temperature on green and white (somewhere between 60 and 80°C). Green and white tea will turn bitter if they are made with boiling water. Black tea, however, should always be made with just boiling water. For an average teabag in an average sized cup, 2-3 minutes should be enough before it’s ready for drinking.
If you find that you prefer the flavour after adding milk or sweetener or what have you to the cup, it doesn’t mean that it’s just as bad as drinking soda. It’s still a lot less sugar, and you get to control yourself how much is added. You could even start that way and then gradually wean yourself off it if you prefer. So, just because you feel you have to add something to it now as a beginner tea-drinker, it doesn’t mean that all hope is lost.
Of course there is also the possibility that you simply don’t like tea in general. If that is the case, I honestly don’t see why you should torture yourself with it, because there are alternatives. Try to explore herbal teas instead. Minty ones tend to be quite popular, for example. As is rooibos which comes in lots of different variations of added flavouring.
Great post – I just wanted to second the idea of adding milk/sugar/honey/agave/stevia etc as needed once you find tea that is palatable, and working from there. That was what I did and I used to required tons of additives before I could drink anything. Don’t be discouraged!
If you don’t want to buy loose leaf until you know what you like, try heading to your local tea shop and get them to brew you a cup. I like DavidsTea because you can smell all the teas, and the staff is generally very excited about tea and friendly. It may be a little overwhelming if you’re shy, but if the store is busy you can sneak in and start smelling tins! Then try something that catches your interest and go from there!
teas ofcourse have flavor and im sure everyone would like atleast some types of tea, i personally cant stand greens/greeny teas but can tolerate most blacks and actually like a few.
i suggest you determine which type of tea you prefer/want ie: green,black,white,oolong,puer,herbals then go about finding a good/decent quality verson, further narrow down based on taste preferance – ie. sweet or minty or spicy ect…
hitting the reviews section would help out quite a bit on what was said above
that being said from your post it seems like you are brewing the tea wrong… or maybe getting stale tea or something… as you should be getting some real flavors not just bitter or funky water
I’m sort of new to this too. I always try tea without sweeteners first, then add in what think it needs. Sometimes it needs sweetened, sometimes not. I usually use white sugar or honey.
Try Twinnings,it’s pretty good if you’re drinking lipton or store brand, and at least here you can find it at dillon’s and walmart.
If you are just worried about the calories in the sweeteners, then stevia and splenda may work for you. To my understanding, honey is actually good for you. enzymes and such things.
Also, I don’t think the flavor of tea is going to come up and smack you in the face with flavor the way sodas do, so there may be an adjustment period on that front, also.
The root of your problem is tea bags. If they are anything like they are where I live – no amount of adjusting temperature/proportions will make them taste good. Just buy/order some loose leaf tea (preferably – from the ones highly rated on this site) and you’d be amazed at the difference.
Just keep in mind that there is loose-leaf tea and loose-leaf tea. Stuff sold at the supermarkets is quite often stale and tasteless even though it’s loose-leaf.
P.S. What you need to understand is that what (usually)goes into bags is totally different from what you can buy loose. It’s of much lower quality, has completely different process of releasing stuff into hot water (due to leaves being minced) and quite often – contains fair amount of tea dust. Even good tea tastes very different when you try to brew fragmented leftovers from the tin and here the degradation is amplified by the fact that the tea is crap quality itself
Steepster is on this, but I’ll just chime in to add that I drink 99% of my tea with no additions at all and vastly prefer it that way. For me, sweetener is used to cover up or improve very poor quality tea – if the tea isn’t good before additions, it’s not worth drinking. I may be a bit of a tea snob, but when there’s so much good stuff out there, I don’t want the empty calories (or chemicals!) of added ‘sweetener’ and/or milk to make the bad stuff palatable.
agreed on loose leaf teas, they are much better. some pu-erhs can be sweet without sugar. but pu-erh is taste that is a little different from other tea.
There are teas that are delicious without sweetener! It really depends on your own personal taste! In my case, greens (including matcha) and white teas are much better plain with no sweetening agents added… But for most flavored teas, especially if they are desserty, sweetener may be required for optimum enjoyment! Still, there are many people that like flavored better without sweetener as well.
To wrap it up, drink what you like and enjoy what you drink! :)
Flavour, natural or not, will depend a lot on the tea used. Loose might be better but the thing with tea is, like with wine, there are no guaranteed rules of thumb. Sometimes more expensive is not better, sometimes bagged can be better than a lot of loose. Even brewing rules sometimes it depends a lot – from personal taste, water quality, etc. But a couple points:
- tea, camellia sinensis real tea stuff can indeed be sweet on its own. I got some chinese green teas (and funnily enough, a black tea from Mozambique) with no flavourings whatsoever that when I brew them they are on their own sweet.
- added flavours can be awesome, and indeed they can be traditional. A lot of times they don´t need any sweetener. Try the more traditional flavours, because there is a reason they are traditional and because often they are much easier to find in good quality for cheap – green tea flavored with jasmine, black tea flavoured with roses or lychee, or if feeling brave lapsang souchong, that is some light black tea treated with smoke. Most people don´t like lapsang souchong, but those who do really really love it and IMO it´s pretty impredictable who will love it – lapsang souchongs are naturally sweeter than usual and really do not need anything else.
- chais are usually a mix of tea (black almost usually though not always) with spices and meant to be steeped in simmering milk. I love those and while they usually are better with some sugar (brown! or honey!), they are usually lovely and flavoursome even without any sweetener. It might take some time to find your perfect chai though, that can be a big quest.
- IMO tannin, the responsible for that astringent mouthfeel, usually needs to be balanced with sugar or something. Really tanninic teas, meh, there can be no joy drinking those without sugar or something. Some teas are usually naturally more tanninic than others ( Ceylons and Indian teas, the smaller the tea leaves or more bruised the more tanninic it is, etc), and usually the longer you steep something the more time the tannins have to move from the leaf to the liquid – flavours are much faster, so shorter steeping times are usually a good thing.
- if you mean “teas” in general, beware of teas containing hibiscus – those produce intensely pink “fruity” and tarty infusions but which IMO almost alwats require some sweetener to be palatable just because they are so tart naturally.
I only drink black teas like Assam or Irish Breakfast with sugar (or milk) everything else without either. I’d suggest trying a high quality Taiwanese (preferably Winter or Spring) green oolong those are sweet in and of themselves without any additions. You may start drinking for the health benefits but will soon wind up drinking for the pure joy and taste.
For darker tea with a different taste, try a Dan Cong Phoenix tea which have naturally occurring unbelievable amounts of tropical or citrus fruit flavors without a single drop of any kind of flavoring added. I don’t drink those with sweetener either. I’d also suggest getting a few small (2 oz) quantities to try. My favorite online retailer these days is Redblossom Tea which has a wide variety gives accurate descriptions of the differences and tastes of their teas. They also sell small quantities. Their teas are not cheap but well worth it and will once and for all answer your question.
Thanks for the great website. I