Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner who believes in the power of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent and fight illness.
Countless people around the world enjoy tea—whether it's a warming brew in the winter or an iced concoction on a hot summer day. And why not? Research shows that drinking tea may have health benefits due to its antioxidants and other bioactive components.
You can enjoy this fragrant liquid in a number of ways. If you're like most people, you may like a little sweetness in your teacup. Some people use honey while others use white sugar. But what about brown sugar? Can you substitute brown sugar for white sugar in tea?
How Brown Sugar and White Sugar Differ
White sugar is a refined product that comes from sugar beets or sugar cane. Most brown sugar on store shelves is made by adding molasses to refined white sugar. Commercial brown sugar may contain up to 10% molasses. The resulting sugar crystals have a coarser texture and a more pronounced flavor.
Substituting brown sugar for white sugar in tea is possible and it can produce tasty results! However, it will change the taste of your tea, so be prepared for a new flavor sensation. Know how much taste change you're willing to accept before deciding whether this substitution will work for you.
Brown Sugar Has a Stronger Flavor
Brown sugar has a stronger flavor than white sugar but it less sweet. So, you will need more brown sugar to get the same sweetness as an equivalent amount of white sugar.
Due to the molasses, brown sugar adds a hint of caramel flavor to a cup of tea, which some people find distracting. Because of the caramel flavor, brown sugar works better in black tea than white or green tea. White tea has a light, flowery flavor that would be overwhelmed by brown sugar.
A stronger black tea, such as Assam or Darjeeling, will stand up to the caramel flavor the best. But you’ll need to experiment and determine whether you like brown sugar in black tea and how much to add to make drinking it more pleasurable.
Brown Sugar Is More Expensive
Then there are economic considerations. Brown sugar is more expensive than white sugar because adding molasses is an extra step. So if you're looking for a budget-friendly way to sweeten your tea, white sugar is more economical.
But if you’re willing to pay a little more and like the caramel taste, you might not mind paying a little more for brown sugar for your next cup of tea. You might have to work a little harder when you add brown sugar to tea. Because the crystals are coarser, they don’t dissolve as easily, you’ll have to stir a little harder and longer.
Is Brown Sugar Healthier Than White Sugar?
Since brown sugar is made by adding molasses to white sugar crystals, the nutritional value is not that different from white sugar. Both types of sugars contain 20 calories per teaspoon, 5 grams of carbohydrates, and 0 grams of fat or protein.
Because it’s made with molasses, brown sugar contains trace amounts of minerals such as iron, magnesium, potassium, iron, and calcium. However, these trace amounts will not have an impact on your health unless you consume large quantities of brown sugar every day over an extended period of time—and that's not a smart idea!
All types of sugar—brown or white—will raise your blood glucose level, making both forms of sugar unhealthy if you type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. Both forms of sugar also increase the risk of dental cavities. So, your dentist will tell you to limit both.
Sweetening Your Next Cup of Tea
It’s possible to sweeten your tea with brown sugar or white sugar. It comes down to your preference and the type of tea you’re drinking. If you’re sipping a strong black tea, the caramel flavor or brown sugar may complement it while brown sugar could overwhelm a light tea.
It's healthiest to go light on all forms of sugar and enjoy the health benefits of tea with as few additives as possible. Tea connoisseurs often avoid using either form of sugar in their tea. But it all comes down to personal preference!
- "Brown Sugar vs. White Sugar: What’s the Difference? - Healthline." 07 Jun. 2019, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/brown-sugar-vs-white-sugar.
- "Nutritional Facts Of Brown Sugar Vs White Sugar." 15 Jul. 2020, https://www.nutritionfact.in/nutrition-facts/nutritional-facts-of-brown-sugar.
- "Health Benefits of Tea - PubMed." https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22593935/.
- Singh A, Lal UR, Mukhtar HM, Singh PS, Shah G, Dhawan RK. Phytochemical profile of sugarcane and its potential health aspects. Pharmacogn Rev. 2015 Jan-Jun;9(17):45-54. doi: 10.4103/0973-7847.156340. PMID: 26009693; PMCID: PMC4441162.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.