By Sheela Prakash
Like clockwork, my sweet tooth likes to kick it just as I am cleaning up after dinner every night. Sometimes I ignore it, but more often than not it’s too loud to be ignored. That’s why I am usually prepared to fight it with a bit of dark chocolate or a scoop of my favorite ice cream. The thing is, I don’t always really feel like a true dessert, I just need my sugar craving satisfied. So, for the times I am too full to eat another bite, I turn to tea.
I know, I know, how is tea even comparable to chocolate? It hardly is, but you may be surprised to find out it can definitely tame a sweet tooth. I am not talking about stirring a few sugar cubes into your cuppa, either. A handful of herbals teas are, in fact, naturally sweet. There’s no actual added sugar in them, rather it’s the botanicals themselves whose flavor provides mellow sweetness. I love brewing an after-dinner mug not just because it satisfies my craving, but because it’s a calming way to wind down at the end of the day. Here are five of my favorite varieties:
1. Chamomile Tea
For a long time, I only associated chamomile tea with me being sick on the couch. It’s delicate sweet and floral notes aren’t just for when you’re feeling under the weather, though. I prefer loose chamomile tea, as I find the tea bags can taste have some musty characteristics that just aren’t too appealing. If you’d like my pro-move, it’s this: Pick up some food-grade dried lavender (you’ll find it at spice shops) and add a generous pinch of buds to your tea infuser with the chamomile. It turns your cup into something you’d imagine drinking in the French countryside, which is hardly a bad way to wind down in the evening.
2. Cinnamon Tea
Cinnamon tea is made from infusing broken pieces of cinnamon bark (which in whole form, are cinnamon sticks) in boiling water. The brewed cup is extra aromatic and equal parts spicy and sweet. For something more reminiscent of masala chai, drop a few whole spices like cardamom pots or star anise into your mug to infused with the cinnamon. Also, you didn’t hear it from me, but adding a splash of whiskey makes for quite the nice little nightcap, if that’s the direction you’d like to take things.
3. Rooibos Tea
Rooibos is an herb native to South Africa and is also referred to as red or redbush tea, because the dried leaves make for a deep reddish-brown cup of tea when brewed. One sip of it and you’d swear it’s been sweetened, but no, it really is that naturally sweet! It’s got vanilla and cocoa notes that are exceptionally warming too. It’s often used as the base for herbal tea blends because it mixes well with other flavors like citrus and mint. You’ll definitely satisfy your craving whether you choose to sip the tea as-is or blended, though.
4. Peppermint Tea
If you’re looking for something that’s both sweet and stomach-settling after dinner, try peppermint tea. Made from dried peppermint leaves, the tea actually has a relaxing effect on your stomach, calming it after a meal. It’s bracingly cool flavor is a bit like those old-school after-dinner mints. I know I said these teas are the perfect choice instead of chocolate, but I’d be remiss not to say peppermint tea pairs perfectly with a square or two of dark chocolate.
5. Licorice Tea
Licorice tea, made from licorice root, tastes, well, like licorice. So if you love that bold anise flavor, you’ll love licorice tea. This naturally sweet tea is another one that’s good for digestion. The root has been shown to soothe stomachs, just like peppermint. I find stirring a cinnamon stick into a steaming cup of licorice tea lends added sweetness while also balancing its strong flavor.