When it comes to how to sweeten green tea, there are 3 different options.
First, you can sweeten tea directly by adding in things like stevia or agave.
Next you can eat a sweet alongside the tea to sweeten it indirectly without altering the flavor.
Finally, you can select a sweeter green tea and prepare it the proper way, so that you don’t need to add anything to it.
In this article, we are going to discuss 3 ways how to sweeten green tea, and talk about the advantages and disadvantages of each one.
We will also go through 11 ways to sweeten tea and 8 different sweet food parings you can enjoy alongside the tea.Let’s get started!
How to Sweeten Green Tea: 11 ways to sweeten tea without refined sugar
One of the ways to sweeten green tea involves refined sugar, which is something we will want to avoid.
Not only is refined sugar extremely bad for your health, it can also really prevent you from enjoy all the subtle taste characteristics of the green tea.
Let's go through 11 ways to sweeten tea using more subtle sweeteners.
#1 Organic Honey
If you are trying to sweeten tea while still maintaining its more natural flavors, honey can be a decent solution. A lot of sweeter teas have these dried honey and floral notes to them that will be complimented quite well by the honey. Honey may also be a nice way to sooth the throat during cold and flu season, so it’s a good thing to have alongside your green tea.
#2 Stevia leaf
If you are looking for How to sweeten green tea without using any refined ingredients, stevia leaf can be a good solution. Although this leaf does not contain any sugar, it is incredibly sweet.
The name “stevia” refers to both the entire plant and it also is a nickname for the “steviol glycosides” which are the sweet components purified from stevia’s leaves that can make the extract 200-300 times sweeter than table sugar. Make sure to use this sparingly!
#3 Organic Coconut Sugar
If you prefer to use a different type of sugar to sweeten tea, you can try using coconut sugar. This is actually not made from coconuts, but rather the dried up sap of the coconut palm flowers.
This sugar is still something you should avoid, but it is far less processed than refined cane sugar so it can be a healthier alternative. Still use this sparingly if you can.
#4 Mint or lemon juice
Adding a little bit of mint or lemon juice to your green tea may not make it sweeter, but it can make it more flavorful. This little added boost of flavor is enough to turn even the skeptics into tea lovers.
This is good if you are trying to cut sugar and sweetener out of your diet altogether. It may be difficult to do this all at once, but by adding little additives and flavorings here and there it can make it easier to go without the sugar.
Just a fair warning, this is not the best sweetener for matcha latte because the lemon juice will react negatively with the milk.
#5 Almond or soy milk
Because almond or soymilk contains sweeteners, it can be another way to sweeten tea without adding in sugar directly. This method is particularly useful when preparing a matcha green tea latte.
Sometimes in your matcha latte, you won’t even need to add sugar at all, you can just mix in the matcha powder with soymilk directly. This will sweeten the tea and also make the matcha latte smoother and creamier as well. Sometimes the best sweetener for matcha latte is not a sweetener at all, just a good soymilk.
#6 Date sugar
Date sugar is the best type of sweeteners to use for many different recipes, but unfortunately it doesn’t work quite as well in tea. Date sugar is made from dried and powdered dates, so it is essentially just a dried fruit rather than a refined sugar.
Of all the ways to sweeten tea, this is perhaps the healthiest. The one downside is that it is not water soluble so it doesn’t dissolve right into the hot tea as granulated sugar would and as a result it's not a good way to sweeten tea.
#7 Organic coconut water
Coconut water can have a natural sweetness to it and it does work well with certain types of green tea like matcha green tea powder. This is a good way to add some extra potassium, electrolytes and natural sweetness to your green tea and it can be another healthy alternative to sugar.
#8 Agave nectar
While sweeteners like honey and agave nectar aren’t a whole lot better for you than sugar, they do have more of a natural sweetness that can be a better compliment to the tea. Agave nectar is made from the nectar of a cactus, and the slightly more vegetal sweetness tends to work better as an additive to green tea.
This is also the best sweetener for matcha latte because it easily mixes into the drink and it can sweeten it without it impacting the flavor too much.
#9 Add fruits
You can also add some fruit to your green tea. This is the healthiest way to sweeten the tea, and it can be a fun way to get your daily fruit intake in. Just add a couple of frozen strawberries to your cold brewed green tea, and you’ll have a nice fruity and refreshing drink to enjoy in the summertime.
This is not the best sweetener for matcha latte because the flavors get too complex and it's almost like you're drinking a smoothie instead of a latte.
#10 Organic maple syrup
Maple syrup works surprisingly well as a sweetener for green teas like matcha, but it can work even better in roasted teas like hojicha. Hojicha is a great tea for fall, and it plays off these warmer notes of coffee, caramel and chocolate.
This makes maple syrup one of the best ways to sweeten tea like hojicha, giving you a nice sweet cup of tea to enjoy on a cozy fall afternoon.
#11 Blackstrap Molasses
Blackstrap molasses is another healthy alternative to refinded sugar, but it can be a bit of an acquired taste. We would not recommend using this as a sweetener for most types of Japanese green teas because the tastes might clash, but it can work for heavier roasted teas like hojicha.
Watch the video on 5 ways to sweeten tea without refined sugar
5 Reasons to Drink Tea Without Sugar
#1 Tea is a naturally healthy treat
If you made it this far in the article, you likely already know that tea is a healthy drink. Unfortunately, the positive effects of green tea are often negated by adding lots of sugar into it. Green tea is virtually calorie free, but when you sweeten tea, you are basically turning it into a soda. This in a way defeats a lot of the purpose of tea, which is a celebration of simplicity.
#2 Avoid the crash
If you’ve ever had too much sugar, you have no doubt experienced a sugar crash. This might have been okay when you were a kid, but now that you have things to do you can’t afford to have a sudden drop in energy! When you stop using sugar to sweeten tea, you will also be avoiding the negative effects that accompany sugar.
#3 Save money with multiple infusions
When you brew high quality, loose leaf tea, you are able to get multiple infusions out of the leaves. You can use 5 grams of leaves to make 4-5 separate cups of green tea, each one with a different flavor.
If you are able to enjoy each brewing of the tea, you can really save some money. Each cup of tea only comes down to a few cents if you prepare it right, and the difference between high quality and low quality is like night and day!
#4 Simplify the brewing process
Tea in its essence is simple, all you are doing is adding leaves to water. Within that simplicity is complexity and that is one of the best parts of tea!
The simplicity of tea is lost when you start to sweeten tea or add other ingredients to the infusion. Do yourself a favor and just get back to the basics. You may find that there is something meditative about just adding the leaves to water and pouring them out into the cup.
#5 Taste your tea
Finally we come down to the most important part, and that is the taste of your tea. The taste of the tea is everything, and if you’re not able to experience it in its fullest, purest form you are really not experiencing it.
When you sweeten tea, it’s almost like you are looking at it through a foggy pair of glasses.The subtle sweetness that takes so much work to cultivate is lost, and even the pleasant bitterness that many tea drinkers enjoy is completely unrecognizable.
There is something about experiencing the drink just as the farmer intended that brings a deeper connection to the drinker and the field the tea was produced on.
6 Golden Rules to Make Tea Sweeter without sugar
Have you ever wished that your green tea would be a little bit sweeter? Instead of adding sugar to the tea and altering the natural flavor, there are 5 tips you can use to make your tea taste sweeter.
#1 Select a tea from a sweet cultivar
Our first tip has to do with the selection of the tea itself. Although all tea comes from the same species of plant, there are hundreds or even thousands of tea plant varieties.
These varieties are called cultivars, and they are one of the many ways a tea farmer is able to control the flavor of tea produced. While most Japanese green teas are from the Yabukita cultivar, this is actually one of the more bitter varieties of Japanese tea plants used for green tea. The main reason this plant is used is because it is tougher, and more resistant to the frost of central Japan.
In southern Japan, they are able to grow a wider array of tea plant varieties that can be a lot sweeter than Yabukita. If you are looking for a sweeter tea, go for one from the Saemidori cultivar or the Asatsuyu cultivar. Just switching up the cultivar of the tea you drink can make it a bit sweeter, but there are even more factors at work that determine the sweetness.
#2 Go For a Shaded Tea
The second tip is to go for a shaded green tea. If a farmer wants to create a sweeter green tea, they will cover the tea plant in a special type of netting a few days before the harvest. When the tea plant is exposed to sunlight, it will begin to convert the sweet and savory theanine into more bitter catechins. In order to maintain a higher theanine content, the tea plant needs to be cut off from sunlight with these nets.
The longer the plant is shaded, the sweeter it can become. Shaded sencha teas can be shaded for around a week. If the tea plant is shaded for over 10 days it is considered to be a Kabusecha.
If the tea plant is shaded for a full 21 days or more, it can be used to make Gyokuro or matcha, the two most prized green teas in Japan. If you really want a sweet tea, you should try and find a Gyokuro or a Kabusecha.
The Gyokuro Cha Meijin for example is made from the sweet Saemidori tea plant and it is shaded for 3 weeks prior to the harvest, giving it a nice warm sweetness.
#3 Brew the Tea at a Lower Temperature
Once you have your tea, you are going to want to make sure you brew it properly. The third tip to produce a sweeter tea is to use lower temperature water. Luckily for fans of sweet teas, the bitter components of the green tea are harder to extract. If you use water thats two hot, these bitter catechins will be extracted and overwhelm the sweeter flavors of the tea. What you want to do is use lower temperature water, or even cold brew the tea. To brew a warm Gyokuro, we recommend you use 60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit water. This will produce a tea with less bitterness.
A more extreme version to this is to brew the tea with cold water. This method is used by some to create sweeter and smoother teas. Just add in 5 grams of tea leaves to the bottom of a pitcher, pour in some room temperature water and let it sit for a few hours. After the time is up, you can then pour the pitcher into a glass and you will be able to enjoy a nice cool refreshing cup of sweeter green tea.
#5 Brew the tea for a shorter time
In addition to brewing at a lower temperature, you also want to make sure you are not brewing for too long. While this may not apply as much to cold brewed tea, even 60 degrees Celsius is enough to extract the bitterness if left for a few minutes too long.
We recommend brewing for 2 minutes for Gyokuro and 1 minute when it comes to other types of Japanese green tea. The reason Gyokuro brews a bit longer is because it is more tightly rolled, so it needs more time for the leaves to open up and release their flavor into the water. There is also less catechins in the Gyokuro, so there is less bitterness to extract.
#6 Eat a sweet alongside your tea
The fifth and final tip when it comes to making a sweeter cup of green tea is to eat a sweet alongside it. In Japan its not common to add sweeteners to green tea, but what is common is adding a dessert pairing.
The reason for this is that when you sweeten tea it disrupts the flavor, so it can’t really be appreciated. By eating a sweet alongside the tea, you are able to appreciate both but the sweet flavor lingers in your palate.
Let’s get into a list of 8 different traditional sweets you can drink with your green tea in order to sweeten it naturally.
Best food pairing to sweeten tea naturally
The most common pairing for green tea, particularly matcha, is mochi. Mochi is made by pounding glutinous rice into a dough. It’s then often wrapped around something sweet like red adzuki bean paste. This creates a dessert that is both sweet and savory, smoothing out some of the more bitter flavors of the green tea. If you want to avoid refined sugar all together, you can use something like almond butter on a date, which can also work as a great sweet and savory food pairing.
Senbei or roasted rice crackers can be a great snack to enjoy with Japanese green teas. While these are not sweet, they can help to reduce any bitterness you might experience and add a pleasant roasted flavor. This can really enhance your drinking experience, particularly with roasted teas like hojicha and kamairicha. The cereal flavor also pairs well with starchier teas like genmaicha. Try it out and let us know what you think!
Yokan is one of the most common sweets drunk alongside matcha. This consistency of this sweet is something like a solid jelly, made with a combination of red beans, agar and sugar. This is very sweet and all you need is a small cube or two to really enhance the sweetness of your green tea experience.
Nama-choco is essentially a Japanese take on a French Ganache. This is a chocolate truffle with a creamy chocolate filling. This sweet and chocolaty flavor is a better paring for dark roasted teas like hojicha because the flavor tends to clash with unroasted green teas like matcha.
A dessert like cheesecake tends to pair well with matcha tea. When finding a flavor pairing for matcha, you really want to stick to foods that are sweet yet neutral. Because cheesecake has a sweet and creamy flavor to it, it pairs well with matcha tea without clashing with the flavor.
As we mentioned before, matcha works best with sweet and neutral flavors, so make sure to use white chocolate with matcha. When it comes to dark chocolate and milk chocolate, you can experiment with roasted teas, as these warmer flavors won’t clash as much.
Of course fruits are the classic food pairing for Japanese green tea. Before refined sugar was brought over from Europe in the 1600’s, most wagashi or Japanese sweets were just different types of fruit. Some of our favorites include strawberries and dates. If you eat a dried or fresh date alongside your matcha tea, you may not even need to find anything else.
These are Japanese pickles and they are served in one form or another with virtually every Japanese dish. In the west, we may be most familiar with pickled ginger, which is commonly served with sushi. This has much warmer taste profiles that work well with kamairicha and hojicha. The more traditional pickled vegetables like cabbage and cucumber may work better with the unroasted teas like sencha.
Final words on how to sweeten green tea
When it comes down to the question of how to sweeten green tea, you first need to find out where your priorities are. If you really care about health, or you want to fully explore the world of loose leaf green tea, we really recommend to avoid sweetening the green tea as much as possible. When you don’t sweeten tea, you are really able to experience it just as the producer intended, and that is a worthwhile experience. If from time to time you just need a sweet pick-me up, of course it is fine to play around with different sweeteners and food pairings. Whatever brings you closer to the world of tea, we are in full support of!