Varieties of Stevia
Stevia comes in many forms. Make your choice based on the amount of sweetness you want (white extract powders are the sweetest) and how well a particular recipe or beverage will be complemented by the licorice-like flavor of less-refined forms. Tip; You can’t replace sugar or honey on a cup-for-cup basis with stevia — the herb is much sweeter.
Fresh Stevia Leaves
This form of stevia is the herb in its most natural, unrefined state. A leaf picked from a stevia plant and chewed will impart an extremely sweet taste sensation reminiscent of licorice that lasts for quite a while.
For stevia to have a more practical application as a tea or sweetener, the leaves must be dried or put through an extraction process, which makes the sweet taste even more potent.
For more of the flavor and sweet constituents of the stevia leaf to be released, drying and crushing is necessary. A dried leaf is considerably sweeter than a fresh one, and is the form of stevia used in brewing herbal tea.
Dried stevia leaf may come in bulk or packaged like tea bags. You can also get it finely powdered. It has a greenish color and can be used in a wide variety of foods and beverages, including coffee, applesauce and hot cereals. You also can use it to make an herbal tea blend. Its distinctive flavor is reminiscent of licorice, which will blend very well with different aromatic spices, such as cinnamon and ginger.
The form in which stevia is primarily used as a sweetener in Japan is that of a white powdered extract. In this form it is approximately 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar (by weight).
This white powder is an extract of the sweet glycosides (natural sweetening agents) in the stevia leaf.
Not all stevia extract powders are the same. The taste, sweetness and cost of the various white stevia powders will likely depend on their degree of refinement and the quality of the stevia plant used. You may find that some powders have more of an aftertaste.
Since extracted stevia powder is so intensely sweet, we recommend that it be used by the pinch (or drop if diluted in water). Once mixed, this solution should be stored in the refrigerator.
These come in several forms. There’s a syrupy black liquid (that results from boiling the leaves in water), which can enhance the flavor of many foods. Another type is made by steeping stevia leaves in distilled water or a mix of water and grain alcohol. You can also find a liquid made from the white powder concentrate mixed with water, and preserved with grapefruit seed extract.