Forms of Stevia
Stevia leaves – This is the natural and unprocessed variety of stevia. Chewing raw or fresh stevia will leave a strong, sweet taste that does not quickly dissipate as does sugar. There is little practical use for this variety of stevia, which is why it is typically first dried and processed.
Dried stevia leaves – Dried stevia leaves are cultivated via a drying and crushing process, providing considerably more sweetness than fresh stevia leaves. This is the form most often used in herbal stevia tea – a tea with very distinct flavors of anise (or licorice) which can blend well with other strong spices such as nutmeg or cinnamon. These green leaves may be sold “whole” or wrapped and packaged similar to tea bags and some stevia manufacturers even offer a fine powdered variety. This form can also be used in a wide array of recipes – from coffee and other beverages to oatmeal, etc.
Stevia extracts – The Japanese favor this form of stevia which is up to three hundred times as sweet as table sugar. (Read our stevia history for information on the glycosides found in this white powder). Not all stevia powders are created equal. You’ll find that the level of refinement, processing, area of cultivation, and brand create a wide variety of stevia tastes. Much the way vanilla and other extracts are incredibly potent, so too is stevia. Stevia extract can be diluted in water and refrigerated for more convenient use and application.
Liquid concentrates – Several types of stevia concentrates (not to be confused with extracts above) exist, including a thick molasses-like black liquid resulting from the boiling of stevia leaves in water. A second type results from steeping of stevia in water or an alcohol/water mix. Lastly, you may find a liquid form which uses white stevia powder diluted in water and preserved.