The last thing you want after brewing a hot cup of tea is a bitter taste in your mouth. Learning how to sweeten tea in different ways will ensure you always have a delicious beverage. Whether you are looking for a low calorie sweetener, a natural sweetener, or something that will work with hot and cold tea blends, you'll find a sweetener that works for you in this article.
At Zest Tea, we use non-GMO, plant-based ingredients to flavor our teas, but if you need a little extra sweetness, go ahead and add a teaspoon of one of these.
Refined sugar is a natural way to add sweetness to your tea. Refined white sugar is the most popular choice. Add 1 teaspoon to your hot tea and go from there. Many iced teas already contain added sugars, so think carefully before adding a teaspoon of sugar to those.
You could also try brown sugar, for a warmer and richer flavor.
Coconut sugar is an alternative to regular sugar that can also be used to sweeten tea. This natural sweetener comes from the sap of the coconut palm tree, so you cannot make it at home with store-bought coconuts. The glycemic index and nutrition of coconut sugar is virtually identical to white cane sugar, so there's no real health benefit to take advantage of by choosing one over the other.1
Don't worry, coconut sugar won't make your plain tea taste like coconuts. This sweetener has mellow caramel notes, more similar to brown sugar than white sugar. It's great in coffee as well as tea.
Honey will taste sweeter than sugar and is often combined with lemon and ginger to create a soothing drink. It's often added to herbal teas, but you can also add honey to a black tea or green tea as well.
Although honey is one of the natural sweeteners on our list, it's not without controversy. The general consensus is that honey is non-vegan, as it's an animal by-product. However, you could argue that honey is more humane to consume than an egg, for example.
Nonetheless, there are vegan honeys available. Wildflower honey and clover honey can be made without bees. Chamomile is often used to flavor vegan honey due to its mellow flavor.
A drizzle of maple syrup can make your pancakes or baked goods taste delicious and it's also a great option for sweetening black tea. Like honey and golden syrup, maple syrup has a warmer sweetness. There's a rich molasses flavor to syrups that work really well with cozy tea types. Think of a spiced festive tea or pumpkin chai latte.
Maple syrup won't dissolve well in cold tea, however. See simple syrup below instead.
There are fewer effective ways to sweeten iced tea, as the cold temperature means white sugar and thick syrups don't dissolve easily. You're often left with the sweetness at the bottom of your glass instead of dissolved throughout.
Simple syrup is a great way to make your iced tea sweet and infuse different flavors into the finished tea as well. Try adding lemon juice, lavender blooms, or even peppermint extract to your syrup for extra flavor.
Add a cup of white sugar and a cup of water to a saucepan, bring it to a boil and then simmer for up to 5 minutes until the sugar has completely dissolved. Once cooled, you have a liquid simple syrup that can be poured into your iced tea.
Stevia is a low calorie plant-based natural sweetener and a great treat for anyone looking to cut calories but still enjoy sweet tea. It is made from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant and can be up to 300x sweeter than sugar... without added carbohydrates and calories.2
At Zest Tea, we think stevia is a great sweetener. We add it to our 0-cal sparkling energy teas along with natural fruits, as the stevia leaf extract can add a little bitterness too. Try Cucumber Melon to discover more.
Vanilla has a great warm sweetness, similar to honey, that works really well with milk-based tea drinks and coffee. Thai sweet tea, milk tea, and chai spices work really well with vanilla. It's another natural sweetener, as vanilla pods are extracted from the vanilla flower - which is actually a type of orchid.
You can add a few drops of vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste to your tea. Another way to infuse your tea with vanilla flavors is to leave a split vanilla pod in a sealed container with your dry tea leaves.
Fruit can be added in several ways to your tea. Mixing brewed tea with fruit juice is the easiest way, and it works with either a cold or hot cup of tea. You can also add dried fruits to your dried tea leaves, and brew them together. Finally, you could also add fruit pieces to your iced tea, to create a cocktail-like drink - a tea sangria!
Fruits go really well with iced tea and sweeten them in a refreshing way, but they do add a few more calories - especially if you eat them afterwards.
The right combination of spices or herbs can create a subtle sweetness for your tea. For example, a pinch of cinnamon, cardamom and cloves with a little sprinkle of brown sugars can make a milky chai tea taste delicious.
Sweetening tea with spices is also quite low calorie and could be beneficial for your health. Cinnamon, for example, is a great source of anti-inflammatory antioxidants that help your body fight infections.3
There are numerous artificial sweeteners that you can use to sweeten your tea, some like advantame are 20,000x sweeter than sugar. Other artificial sweeteners are more well-known, such as sacchari (Sweet'N Low) and sucralose (Splenda).
There's controversy surrounding artificial sweeteners. Most are allowed for use and considered safe by the FDA in the US, plus they're great tools for cutting your sugar intake while enjoying sweet treats. Studies have attempted to link them to cancer and deteriorating gut health, but no real link has been proven. These unsubstantiated claims that have left a bad mark on artificial sweeteners don’t hold up in real clinical studies. The reality is that artificial sweeteners can actually be an effective way to aid weight loss and lower your BMI.4
One last note: high fructose corn syrup is natural in the sense that it's plant-based. However, like artificial sweeteners, there's concern (mostly unsubstantiated) about negative side effects and how our bodies handle high fructose corn syrup compared to table sugar.5 That's why it didn't make our list of the top ways to sweeten tea.
The temperature of your tea will alter the perceived sweetness. Coldness typically suppresses sweet flavors, which is why you may need to add more sweetener to iced tea than hot tea. Taste receptors on our tongues send stronger signals to our brains when we consume warm substances.6
This is true for tea, coffee, soda and any other sweet beverage. When a cool drink warms to room temperature, it will taste sweeter.
At Zest Tea, we have a range of hot teas and cold teas. Our vegan recipes rely on natural fruits and plant-based extracts to boost the caffeine and sweetness of our teas. We've designed them to be delicious and energizing without any additional sugar needed.
If you want a cold, sweet and low-calorie beverage, then we recommend one of our sparkling teas.
Blackberry Lime, Blood Orange Mango, and Cucumber Melon are all zero sugar and zero calorie! Try our variety pack to find your favorite flavor.
Add a sweetener, such as sugar, honey or syrup. Stir to dissolve the sweetener in your cup.
Sugar is great for plain black tea, while honey can be extra soothing in herbal tea. If you want low calorie tea sweeteners, choose stevia or aromatic spices.
Choose a tea that is naturally sweet or contains healthy, real fruit pieces to add sweetness along with nutrition. Our Superberry Samba is a good choice, with smooth green tea, passionfruit, strawberry and acai.
If you don't have sugar or honey to hand, try adding a few drops of vanilla extract. Syrups will dissolve well in hot tea too, so consider using a teaspoon of golden or maple syrup.
Sugar, stevia and some honeys can be plant-based and therefore vegan. High fructose corn syrup is a natural product too, although it's not a great sweetener and is often banded amongst the artificial sweeteners.