As we sit, a few days after Valentine’s Day, it seems the perfect time to take a look at sugars and other ways to make your cuppa a bit sweeter.
Decorative sugar: One lump or two? While many of us are familiar with traditional sugar cubes, there are some beautiful improvements. Sugars can be found in a wide variety of shapes from balls to flowers to hearts. They may be any color of the rainbow or shaped to fit on the rim of a teacup. There are sugar stirrers and those with icing flowers.
Chambre de Sucre has a spectacular range of decorative sugar options. For some of the more interesting take a look at:
* Sucre Rond – Sugar orbs topped with icing flowers
* Diamond sugar stirrers – White or amber cane sugar crystalized on a wooden stirrer
* Shaped sugars including flowers, hearts, balls and even ocean creatures
* “On the cup” sugars including angel wings and cats
Flavored sugar: An interesting alternative to a flavored tea is using a sugar with a delicate flavor of its own. A lavender, citrus or vanilla sugar can add just a hint of complexity to a simpler tea. A sugar infused with chai spices could make a warmer, more luxurious latte. Stronger flavors like chili and ginger could shake up the cup. There are many websites with tips for making your own flavored sugars.
Fresh Origins has developed a unique take on flavored sugars. They combine cane sugar with fresh herbs and edible flowers to create crystals that are as beautiful as they are flavorful. Their offerings include basil, mint, fennel, rose, cilantro, hibiscus, pumpkin spice, and cranberry.
World Tea Expo exhibitor World Flavorz also has a variety of flavored sugars in their collection, with a heavy emphasis on fruits. Their selection includes cardamom, cherry, lavender, lemon, peach, pomegranate and strawberry.
Rock sugar: Some vendors are promoting rock sugar as an improvement to traditional refined sugar. The concept of rock sugar is likely familiar to anyone who made rock candy as a kid. A supersaturated sugar syrup is formed by dissolving sugar in water and then a stick or string is placed in the syrup for the crystals to grow on. It can then be sold on the stirrer or broken off into crystals. This form of sugar is slower to dissolve in the cup.
Teavana is a popular source of Belgian Rock Sugar. It is sold in crystal form, rather than on a stirrer. They describe it as “unrefined sugar crystals.” Unlike the Chambre de Sucre stirrers which are produced from cane sugar, Teavana’s Belgian Rock Sugar is produced from sugar beets.
Honey: Using honey to sweeten tea is certainly a long-practiced tradition. A dollop can be placed in a cup of hot tea or used when stove-steeping chai. It is praised for being sweeter than sugar so less is required to effect the desired flavor. It is also thought to have functional benefits that make it a choice for some over traditional sugar.
TeaSource offers a special option for adding honey to your tea. Their Honeystix are tubes containing a single serving of flavored honey. Flavor options include caramel, sour cherry, lemon and mango. Unflavored sticks are also available.
Agave nectar: Cactus grown in central Mexico are the source of this low-glycemic naturally sweet nectar. Several tea vendors offer the syrup which is sustainably harvested by hand. A great substitute for table sugar, you can get by with half a teaspoon of nectar and consume half the calories. Republic of Tea sells bottles of agave nectar and DAVIDsTEA offers unflavored, lime and coconut agave sticks.