The Tea Tip Discussion (Helpful Tips!)
I will start off the list of tips.
Honey will provide a great bouquet for your tea. However, you might have noticed that too much honey gives your tea a bad taste.
Use a little honey along with some sugar. The sugar will keep your tea from getting too acidic from too much honey!
I find I use less sweeteners now. I still add sugar when I western steep most teas. I don’t add sugar when I gongfu steep raw puerh or oolong. I find I like to add sugar most to iced teas. For cold steeped iced teas I make a simple syrup with sugar and water because sugar doesn’t dissolve well in cold tea.
I just commented in another discussion about this, which I’ll repeat here:
There is a natural tendency to use less sweetener over time, as a result of preference change, brewing technique improvement, and from drinking better tea. I only use sugar in masala chai now. There is nothing wrong with the existence of a preference curve or people being at different places on it, and I wouldn’t pass judgment on someone that stopped in a different place.
That’s still not a tip, more a continuation of explaining why that range of preferences keeps coming up, or at least my own take on it. If someone likes sugar in tea then they should add sugar to tea (or honey, whatever it is). So on to converting that to a tip, following up on the brewing technique and selection issues.
For black teas, there are softer and sweeter versions of teas out there, so swapping out an Assam or Ceylon for a nicer Darjeeling or Chinese black tea (or one from Thailand, Vietnam, or Indonesia, maybe) might enable a profile that is lighter and sweeter, requiring less sugar, better on its own. Brewing lighter also works. For different tea types cutting the temperature, brewing time, or proportion of tea to water can lighten and soften teas, leading to a more balanced flavor and aspect profile that doesn’t need as much sweetener to be in a positive range.
There is no need to do all this because it’s trendy, or due to pressure from tea-enthusiastic people saying that they never add sugar to tea. It’s just possible it could help someone keep exploring new ways to enjoy tea on their own terms. Cold oolongs can be really nice, and naturally flavorful, sweet, and subtle, another way to mix up preferences and options. Cold brewing can work in making them, or even conventional brewing and chilling the result, or a mix of the two, drinking an infusion or two hot and then leaving the rest sit in warm—but not hot—water for an extended time. An oolong like a Jin Xuan works well for this (an inexpensive cultivar, typically, available from Taiwan or Thailand or other places), or even a type like Dan Cong is still ok, but to me it only makes sense to make cold tea out of mid-range quality teas.