Ochabito said

to sweeten or not to sweeten that is the question

Being Japanese I have never put sugar in my tea, I was wondering what percentage of Americans sweeten their tea? is it really better with sugar or sweetener? Is tea so unbearable without sweetening it?

8 Replies
Carolyn said

I don’t know whether there are statistics, but my guess would be that nearly all Americans sweeten their tea. Here on Steepster, the percentage of Americans who sweeten tea is much lower.

As to your question about whether tea so unbearable without sweetening it, I’d have to say yes if what you’re talking about is the tea most Americans drink: poor quality bagged black tea. That tea is quite bitter and not very good tasting on its own.

Americans who drink green teas typically don’t sweeten that tea. The small number of Americans who drink good tea don’t do a lot of sweetening either. Those Americans who drink Japanese green teas don’t sweeten them (at least I’ve never seen them do so) because Japanese teas really don’t call for sweetening. However, most of the Japanese tea drinking seems to be done in areas with large Japanese-American communities so it is likely that there is some cultural carry-over.

The herbal tea drinking community seems less inclined to sweeten their teas and more likely to use honey or agave syrup instead of sugar when they do.

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denisend said

Sweetener (not just sugar, but honey or splenda or whatnot) does change the taste of teas; it brings out different notes.

My husband only sweetens his “southern sweet tea” (because that’s how you drink it). All other tea is taken unsweetened… until we tried Harney’s Christmas blends at our local tea house. I sweetened mine (because I do that) and found them to be good and flavorful. Unsweetened, he thought they were dull. The sweetener really brought out the different spices and notes in the tea blends. So even though he hated admitting it, he sweetened those 2 teas.

Is tea “unbearable” without sweetener? No, but I personally like it better with. It’s just a preference.

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PeteG said

The average north american tea bag drinker in my experience use some sort of sweetening agent and I used to be one of those as well. It was the possibilty that I may be prone to having diabetes that I decided to stop using sugar and replaced it with a sugar replacement. The flavour of the tea decidedly was horrible with the sweetner and I went cold turkey – Milk only! Over time as I tried new and different teas I began to disern the subtlties and began to wean myself fm adding any dairy product. I would say that 98% of the teas that I consume and enjoy I drink naked(that is with no additives). Once in a while I will add some honey to my chai teas. With all the refined sugars added to our prepared foods these days I work hard to eliminate any additional sugar to my teas.

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it really depends on the tea, i find milk and honey or sugar improve the blacks i enjoy, but i think reds don’t need to be sweetened, i also like to try a tea without anything first, then add honey or sugar or cream to see how it changes the flavor.

so it depends

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Cofftea said

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Keemun said

…I usually add sugar as soon there is milk in a tea. And some blacks, from my humble point of view, can only be drunk w. milk. Shall I go so far and say…“designed to be drunk with milk”? Englisch/Irish Breakfast…for example. The keemun notes only come to life if a splash of milk is added. The blends are backed up with very strong assam or pu-erh to carry the tunes.

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jpbaggini said

Hi, I just got into Japanese tea. I have been drinking regular English tea in the mornings since Im 5, always with milk and sugar… I went to Teavana w my wife and we got a really nice teapot and cups and some amazing tea as well. They sold me this rock sugar the use and I have been using it but after reading this post I am going to try it with out. I have a question, if do choose to put this rock sugar, should I put it in the pot with water before adding the tea or after the tea has been steeped? Thank you and congratulations on the website.

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mbanu said

There are regional differences. On the West Coast, unsweetened green tea is still fairly popular. It used to be much more popular throughout the United States, but political changes after World War II caused a dramatic shift in tea-drinking habits here.

Generally the Southeastern United States uses the most sugar in their tea, partially due to tradition. The most popular way of drinking tea there is a style called “Southern Sweet Tea”, which is a strongly-brewed Ceylon tea that is sweetened then poured over ice. It was invented in the late 1800s. I think that the idea behind the sugar is to help counteract the rapidly melting ice, which would otherwise leave the tea tasting watery… a matter of taste, I suppose. :) Less and less sugar is added as you head north up the East Coast (although you are also more likely to find lemon offered with your tea).

Part of the issue may be “ready-to-drink” bottled teas, and instant teas. These are both quite popular in the United States, and when they were first introduced, all were pre-sweetened, I imagine for technical reasons.

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