Why is Stevia Bitter?
The number one complaint I read about stevia is that it's bitter. Yet, many people love it. Why the discrepancy? There are a few reasons why some stevia might be bitter.
- Plant quality: There are different varieties of stevia. The ‘steviol glycosides package’ will vary in each plant. Some will contain a higher percentage of the sweeter glycosides.
- Plant origin: It is said that the original plantations in Paraguay contain the best tasting stevia in the world. That makes sense because South America has the ideal soil and sun conditions to produce the best stevia plants. Unfortunately, most stevia plants now comes from China.
- Grade A stevia is the highest quality, with little bitter aftertaste. It is generally not available commercially.
- Grade B stevia is a little less sweet, with some minor deterioration of the leaf. This stevia takes longer to grow. Most of the high quality stevia sold today is considered Grade B and is generally from Paraguay.
- Grade C is poor and has a grassy, bitter flavor and grows like weeds. The majority of stevia sold today would be classified as Grade C. Manufacturers buy it for cheap, and cover up the bitterness by adding flavors.
- Processing: Stevia stems and veins are very bitter. Therefore, if a processor is going for bulk, or doesn’t take the time to separate these, the final stevia product will be bitter. Stevia is extracted by steeping dried leaves in water, filtering, and purifying the plant extract. Many manufacturers use alcohol, solvents, and chemicals which can affect the quality and taste.
- Added fillers: Manufacturers like to add all sorts of fillers in stevia like maltodextrin and erythritol. This is why you MUST read the ingredients and do a bit of research on the processes used to make the stevia before you buy. The best reviewed stevia products only contain water.
- Concentration in foods: Think of stevia as a spice. Too much of it will make food bitter. Some foods combine well with it, and some don’t. Some foods need more concentration of stevia (sour lemonade), others only do well with a tiny bit of stevia (baked goods).
- Different strokes for different folks: Different taste buds will like different brands/formulation. I don’t understand how anyone can drink aspartame or eat olives…but some people just love the taste. There’s always someone who hates the brand everyone loves, or loves the brand that everyone hates.
Because it doesn’t taste like sugar, stevia can take a little getting used to. The best way to do this is to spend a couple weeks completely off any types of sweeteners.
Then, I recommend buying a good quality liquid stevia like SweetLeaf Sweet Drops Sweetener which contains no fillers but water. I grow a stevia plant each summer and it tastes quite distinct and bitter. It is processing that removes the bitterness. Although processed, this is probably the best stevia product out there.
I've done a lot of experimenting with stevia. I find it is best used in conjunction with other natural sweeteners. Often a touch of sugar makes a big difference.
Most people will get used to the taste of stevia. I certainly can't tell the difference anymore.
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