Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tea and Artificial Sweeteners

"Should I use artificial sweetener with my tea?"

Our recommendation is NO. In fact, we don't think artificial sweetener is ever a good idea.

Let's start by noting that high-quality tea is almost never sweetened. At least, most tea experts shun sugar. Sweetening tea masks the individual flavor and provides no enhancement to most tea drinkers.

Now let's talk about exceptions. To begin with, if you're used to drinking tea with sugar, that doesn't mean you won't enjoy it unsweetened. Most people we talk to who used to add sugar but now drink tea unsweetened prefer it without sugar and, in fact, dislike it with sugar.

Two notable exceptions: iced tea and black tea. Iced tea is typically sweetened, and though many people drink it without sugar, most like it sweetened to some degree. In this case we recommend sugar. Pure, organic cane sugar won't change the basic flavor like honey does, but honey is nice in some iced teas. (Honey does change the flavor and cover up subtle differences between teas.)

Black tea is traditionally served English style, with sugar and milk or half-and-half. In this case, honey is generally not the best sweetener because the hot tea changes the honey to a cooked flavor...which is fine if you're used to that. (Chinese people don't drink much black tea; most drink green or oolong, and many favor pu-erh.)

So why not artificial sweeteners? Aside from taste, artificial sweeteners are linked with all sorts of health and psychological problems. Ironically, one of the most common side effects is weight gain.

Aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal) is now known to cause a number of serious health issues, even though it finally passed FDA approval following years of rejection. It passed because the newly-appointed FDA commissioner overruled the scientific panel. He then went to work for the company selling aspartame. (More)

Sucralose (Splenda) is becoming more popular since the toxicity of Nutrasweet is now well documented. But sucralose causes a myriad of problems and may be even worse. Many people complain of immediate negative reactions that include mood and behavioral changes and a list of ailments too long to note here. But you can Google it, and we recommend doing so before making a habit of any artificial sweetener.

Simply changing molecules around (Splenda uses bleach to alter sugar's chemistry, making it hundreds of times sweeter) has unpredictable and potentially disastrous results. Remember that carbon monoxide is just carbon and oxygen, but it's deadly.

[Learn about Tea Feng Shui]

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