It’s definitely Spring in San Antonio … can Summer be far behind?
Texas Summers make us crave cool, refreshing beverages, and sweet tea is a top choice for most of us. When I heard that Food Network star Paula Deen had given it up, I was astonished. Then I learned that she had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2008.
“The first thing I did was give up sweet tea because I drank so much,” Deen, 65, told Parade in Jan 2012. “I’d start drinking at lunchtime and wouldn’t set it down until I went to bed. When you calculate how much empty calories and how much sugar I was consuming, it was staggering. So I haven’t had a glass of sweet tea in three years.”
There are health issues surrounding artificial sweeteners, too, so people look for other alternatives. Low glycemic natural sweeteners, such as agave syrup, are becoming widely known and available. These are metabolized more slowly and put less stress on the pancreas. When I sweeten my tea, low glycemic natural sweeteners are my first choice.
But what if we didn’t need to reach for the sweetener at all? Did you know that when you taper off your sugar intake, the taste buds adjust? When I am unaccustomed to it, super-sugary food has a sort of burning effect on my tongue, so that I’m not inclined to eat much of it.
More importantly, when we sweeten our tea, we are changing the flavor. We never have a chance to taste the tea and to learn how to discern between good and poor tea choices. We don’t appreciate the exquisite flavor complexities of pure, fresh tea leaves, carefully grown, picked and processed. In addition, loose tea leaves are often very beautiful, and drinkers enjoy watching them steep in glass tea ware.
Pure tea needn’t be bitter, astringent, or too strong … the 3 main reasons people add sweetener. Smooth, mellow flavor can be insured with a bit of attention to quality tea selection and the best way of preparing that particular type of tea. To encourage agreeable tastes and prevent an overly strong flavor, moderate the amount of leaf used, the water temperature, and the length of steep.
While our jaded taste buds may argue otherwise, strong flavors aren’t necessary for a tea to be delicious, thirst-quenching and healthful. Still, flavored teas are quite popular. My favorites are those scented or flavored with natural flowers, fruits, and herbs. I enjoy feeling a connection to the plants and to those who grow, harvest and produce them for our use, adding to the experience of fostering wellness.
One place to begin to improve your tea experience is your local meetup group, San Antonio Tea & Herb Enthusiasts. Their Message Forums house a collection of information which can be read by non-members. Joining the group and attending meetups is another way to sample new teas and gain experience and the latest on sources, vendors, sites, etc. Or simply use your favorite search engine to find “loose tea preparation.”
With the recent explosion of tea information in books and on the net, a person can quickly pick up the basics of preparing and appreciating good tea. All that’s required is a little time and a desire to learn … in order to enrich the rest of your tea-loving life!