I had to laugh (and admit he was right) when a Facebook commenter seeing an afternoon tea tray wrote, “that sure looks like a lot of calories.” Facts, my friends. Afternoon tea is an indulgence in many ways, by design: after all, it is a tradition started by England’s leisure class. At afternoon tea, we spoil ourselves. We take time to dress stylishly, to sip slowly, to converse unhurriedly. We certainly don’t watch the clock, or our waistlines.
On the other hand, one must concede that the afternoon tea meal relies heavily on those yummy non-Paleo ingredients: dairy, flour and sugar. So for those of us who want to add a dash of moderation to our afternoon tea, today we share 7 delicious teas that are so aromatic and naturally flavorful, they are easily enjoyed without any added sugar or milk.
Forego the Sugar for Your Health, and Your Tea Palate
Years into my afternoon tea adventures, a wise tea friend suggested I develop my tea palate by trying teas before sweetening them. I’ll omit the shocking number of teaspoons of sugar I once administered to my cup of tea. But, I am reformed! Today, I very rarely add sugar or milk to my teas, and can report that this helps you sense and savor the natural flavor profiles of different brews. In the selection below, you’ll find teas with a variety of tastes: floral, sweet, peppery, citrusy, and even creamy.
Go for Teas Flavored with Real Botanicals and Essential Oils
Why? It comes down to two issues: authentic flavor and resteeping, as described by the tea companies below.
Many tea brands use artificial or “natural” flavorings and fragrances to mask poor quality ingredients, creating intense, unnatural flavors. Numi uses only pure ingredients, straight from nature. Real fruits, flowers and spices impart nuanced, complex flavors that can’t be re-created in a lab.”– Numi Tea
Artificial flavors added after the basic crafting steps lie on the surface of the leaf, and will therefore be extracted quickly. Since these flavorings are typically added to low-grade teas with mediocre natural flavor, later infusions that allow hot water to penetrate past the surface will reveal any underlying shortcomings. In contrast, natural flavors that develop through the process of slow growth and careful crafting will develop fuller, more complex notes as water permeates the inner layers of whole leaves. Pure teas often reveal their best, most interesting nuances on the second, third, or fourth infusion, as the leaves begin to open fully and release more of their inherent flavor.”– Red Blossom Tea Company
Don’t Take Milk or Sugar? Try One of These 7 Delicious Teas
1. Rose Pouchong
Though typically a “pouchong” is a lightly oxidized oolong from Taiwan, Fortnum & Mason’s Rose Pouchong tea is made by “interleaving” rose petals with fine grade, large-leaf Chinese Maofeng Keemun black tea as it dries, resulting in a perfume that is not overpowering, but rather gently recalls a fragrant rose garden. A perfect pairing for the chocolatey and creamy dessert course of afternoon tea.
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2. Earl Grey
Though its name may conjure images of a manly lord, the famous Earl Grey blend is a fruity one. The famous blend combines black tea with oil of the Mediterranean-grown citrus fruit: the bergamot (pronounced “burg uh maht”). Art of Tea’s Earl Grey is a loose leaf blend of full-bodied black teas that are hand picked from select gardens in Sri Lanka, then hand blended with oil of bergamot to create a bold and floral cup of tea.
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3. Milk Oolong
How can this tea not have actual milk in it when it tastes so creamy? Grown high in the Fujian mountains of China, The Republic of Tea’s hand-processed green oolong develops a natural milky taste and silky texture that leads your brain to sense “sweet cream.” The smooth flavor will develop during multiple infusions, making this tea the perfect companion for a long, luxurious teatime.
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4. Jasmine Green
If you love floral scents, you’ll quickly fall in love with jasmine green tea. Also produced in the Fujian province of China, Red Blossom Tea Company’s Dragon Pearl Jasmine Supreme uses handpicked Da Bai leaf buds, which are steamed and individually rolled by hand, then stored until the summer jasmine blooms. Fresh jasmine flowers are then blended with the dry tea so that the tea absorbs the moisture and aroma of the flowers. This scenting process is repeated for ten nights, using fresh flowers each time. So while you are appreciating this divine tea, take a moment to appreciate the workers who undertake this laborious process to create it.
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5. Masala Chai
The iconic spiced drink we now call “chai” (Hindi for “tea”), is much changed from its original preparation. Thousands of years ago, the early versions of this spiced beverage, which had no tea in it, were used “in Ayurveda, a traditional medicinal practice in which herbs and spices are used for healing. Heat from ginger and black pepper was believed to stimulate digestion; the antiseptic properties in cloves were thought to help relieve pain; cardamom was used as a mood elevator; cinnamon supported circulation and respiratory function; and star anise was known to freshen the breath.” [Source: Teatulia]. As it is prepared today, milk, sugar and tea are standard ingredients in the Masala Chai recipe, but these were only popularized in the 19th century under British rule. So we can skip back in time a bit, to a version of Masala Chai that doesn’t add milk and sugar. This Assam tea by Vahdam Teas is blended with crushed cardamom pods, cinnamon, cloves and pepper, for a rich and spicy brew.
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6. Silver Needle
Trust us on this one. Silver needle may not jump out at you as a powerfully flavored tea, but its appeal is the very opposite: a subtle sweetness that is softly refreshing and bright. One of the most highly prized Chinese teas, Silver Needle (or Bai Hao Yin Zhen) is a white tea made in the Fujian province, from the silvery tips of leaves at the end of each branch. Gathered only for a few days in early spring, Adagio Teas’ silver needle tea has a delicate, smooth taste that hints of white grapes and honeysuckle, and develops beautiful flavor through multiple infusions.
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7. Chocolate Pu-erh
Pu-erh tea is also known as “dark tea” or “fermented tea,” and originated thousands of years ago in the Yunnan province of China. The fermentation process allows tea leaves to age like wines do, their flavor changing over time. Numi Tea describes their Chocolate Pu-erh Tea as “decadent with a spicy finish.” They use organic black pu-erh tea, blended with organic cocoa powder, organic rooibos, organic cinnamon, organic orange peel and organic nutmeg. Sounds like a dessert in and of itself.
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Tell Us about Your Favorite Unsweetened Teas
We hope you enjoy tasting these 7 tasty teas! Do you have a tea you love to drink just as it is, no sugar or milk needed? Please let us know in the comments, and we’ll expand our tea palate along with you.