A Tale of Two Rock Sugars

When I went to buy my first ounce of “real” tea, I went to Teavana because it was close and convenient and I could drink it that day, no waiting for shipping. One of the things the salesperson pushed was German rock sugar. No thanks, sales lady, I just want my tea.

While I typically use raw honey from a local beekeeper for my tea, and just regular sugar if I’m in a pinch, I decided to look this stuff up anyway. It sounded like a gimmick, and I was pretty skeptical at first. The product is claimed to sweeten without making tea taste sugary. I like sweets, but so much nuance is lost in teas when sweetened, so I decided to give it a try. Needless to say, I was impressed! It did exactly what it claimed to. Because the rock sugar is less refined than white sugar, it has a more mild flavor profile, meaning it doesn’t really taste like anything other than sweetness.

But, as I learned when I picked some up for my brother’s birthday, for him to use with his exotic coffees, not all rock sugars are created equal. Here’s a quick glimpse at what I discovered.

Persimmon Tree Tea vs. Teavana German rock sugar

 It’s not hard to see the difference in the overhead photo I took of our two jars of rock sugar. On the left is the rock sugar crystals from Teavana. On the right is my partially-used jar from Persimmon Tree Tea. Aside from the difference in color, there’s also a substantial bit of sugar dust in the sugar from Teavana. Persimmon Tree’s jar is relatively dust-free, with the smallest crystals at the bottom of the jar still being larger than typical granulated sugar.

There’s a pretty big difference in price, too. One pound of German rock sugar costs $8 from Persimmon Tree Tea. A pound from Teavana costs $8.50 online and $9.44 in our local store, but good luck walking out with it at that price, since they’ll overfill the bag and it takes dedication to convince them to whittle down the amount to what you actually asked for.

Both companies charge extra for a container; Teavana suggests a $7 tin for small amounts or offers 3 pounds in a large screw-top jar for $27 online. For $12, you can get an airtight jar filled with one pound of sugar from Persimmon Tree. This jar works much better for my limited counter space, and I chose to put my brother’s tea into a similar airtight jar I had on hand already because of it.

So what about the taste? Obviously this is the most important point.
Both rock sugars deliver on their promise to sweeten tea without altering the flavor. The crystals are nothing but sweetness on your tongue and in your tea, with none of that processed sugar taste to go with it. But of the two, the stuff I got from Persimmon Tree Tea is slightly sweeter, meaning I use less of it in my tea.

Using less might sound great, but be aware: German rock sugar has higher caloric content than regular processed sugar, so just because it’s sweeter doesn’t mean it’s healthier.

Persimmon Tree Tea has quickly become my favorite place to get tea goodies from, so you can expect a lot of reviews of their teas in the future. If I’m choosing between the two rock sugars, theirs is definitely what I’m going to spring for. Cheaper, less dust (and so less waste), and lower price.
Sorry, little brother! I’ll get you the good stuff next time.

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