Tea with natural sweeteners -- Dentist develops a drink with less sugar than most others

Posted: July 31, 2013

The Winchester Star

Dr. Ken Banks and his wife, Rhonda Banks, sell the drink he designed — Dr. B's Premium Microbrewed Tea — once a month at the Freight Station Farmers Market in Winchester. They will be at the market this Saturday. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)
Dr. B’s Premium Microbrewed Tea comes in Original, Coconut, Lemongrass, Pomegranate Acai, Apple Spice, and Honeybell Orange flavors. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)

Winchester — As a dentist, Dr. Ken Banks knows the effect consuming too many unhealthy food products can have on the body.

Products high in sugar, especially drinks, might tantalize the taste buds but have a horrible effect on a person’s teeth, he said.

His solution was to come up with his own product, Dr. B’s Premium Microwbrewed Tea, which uses natural sweeteners instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners, said Banks, owner of Smile Designs of the Shenandoah Valley in Inwood, W.Va.

“Tea is one of those products that you can alter the components,” he said. “It was easy for us to do that to come up with a tea that was sweet, was all natural, and still releases a lot of antioxidants.”

Banks and his son, fellow dentist Dr. Christopher Banks, created the beverage line, which launched in September 2012.

They are sold in 16-ounce bottles in two locations in Winchester — at Harvest Moon Natural Foods, 3113 Valley Ave., Suite 106, and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. the first Saturday at the Freight Station Farmers Market, 315 W. Boscawen St.

The teas come in Original, Coconut, Lemongrass, Pomegranate Acai, Apple Spice, and Honeybell Orange flavors, said Sarah Langford, Ken Banks’ daughter and a dental hygienist in his office.

All six flavors of the tea have as their base a South African rooibos tea leaf that is caffeine free, she said.

The tea is sweetened with Birchwood Xylitol, a naturally occurring sugar alcohol found in the tree and used for a sweetner, commonly found in sugarless chewing gums, she said. They also use monk fruit, a fruit that is picked and infused with water to create a natural sweetener.

As a result of the sugar substitutes, the teas only have about 10 calories per bottle, she said.

For the teas, knowing the source of the Xylitol, which is harvested from birchwood tress in Maine, is important, she said. There are other sources, such as corn, that are not as high of quality.

For the teas, the big appeal of Xylitol as a sweetener, at least from a dentistry standpoint, is that it “works the opposite of sugar” when it comes to tooth decay, said Langford of Inwood.

“Sugar and bacteria in the mouth are what cause dental problems,” she said. “Xylitol won’t bind to bacteria in the mouth, so it has actually been found to be helpful to fight against dental problems.”

As a medicine, Xylitol is used to prevent middle ear infections in young children, and as a sugar substitute for people with diabetes, according to WebMD. It is added to some chewing gums and other oral care products to prevent tooth decay and dry mouth, the site said.

When it comes to making the tea, Banks went with the same philosophy of microwbrewing on site as is used in some beers and using tea leaves instead of a concentrate.

The optimum temperature for brewing rooibos tea leaves is between 210 and 212 degrees for no longer than 10 minutes, Banks said. Then they add the combination of Xylitol, monk fruit, and the flavor for the tea and blend for 10 to 15 minutes before it is bottled.

The Original Dr. B’s Tea does not have added flavors, so people really get the taste of the tea, Langford said. it is a red tea that is high in antioxidants.

“It almost has more of a vanilla based taste. It is the total opposite of black tea,” she said.

The Apple Spice flavored tea was to bring more of a local flair given the area’s history with the fruit, she said. She likes the teas when they are refrigerated but said in the fall, the Apple Spice “is a great mulled drink.”

The most popular flavor is Coconut and is brewed in coconut water, which is a big craze right now in the United States because it is “high in potassium and has a lot of good electrolytes,” Banks said. “Coconut water is a healthy beverage but very expensive when you go to buy it in individual drinks.”

The Lemongrass has a “clean and refreshing taste,” he said. Although the citrus flavor is evident, it is “not like ordering a tea with lemon.”

Honeybell Orange’s flavor comes from a variety of orange grown in Florida, not from honey, Langford said. “It has a citrus flavor that blends well with the tea.”

The flavors for Pomegranate Acai come from the two fruits in its name, she said. The combination “makes one of the sweeter tasting teas.”

The Winchester locations for selling the tea were chosen because of the emphasis on natural and organic foods at farmers markets and Harvest Moon, Langford said.

Owner Clay Smith said he decided to carry the teas at Harvest Moon because it is made by a regional company, and he liked its nutritional value. He said the store “goes through a ton of it.”

He has tried all of them, and his favorites are the Pomegranate Acai and Coconut.

“They have a great taste, are caffeine free, and are very low in calories,” he said. “That plays into a group of people who like tea but can’t have the caffeine or sugar of other teas.”


Dr. B’s Premium Microwbrewed Tea is available locally at Harvest Moon, 3113 Valley Ave., Suite 106, or from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. the first Saturday of the month at the Freight Station Farmers Market, 315 W. Boscawen St., both in Winchester. For more information, contact 304-279-4288 or info@drbstea.com or go to drbstea.com.


— Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfarland@winchesterstar.com