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Stevia In The Raw

What is stevia? A word on all the available forms

What is stevia exactly? Stevia is a family of 200 to 300 plants that originated from Paraguay. The one that we'll be focusing on here though, is the so-called stevia rebaudiana plant, because it's the only family member that produces the lauded sweet taste associated with the species.


Let's have a look at a quick overview of the different forms that the sweet leaf can be used in:  

  • Fresh stevia leaves: the plant can of course be grown in the comfort of your own home, for which you can use seeds, or buy an already germinated plant in the garden center. The leaves can be plucked and used directly for sweetening your beverages. Stevia in the raw is the most natural way to go, but be sure to note the number one rule: the more sunlight the plant receives, the sweeter its taste!
  • Dried stevia leaves: once the leaves are dried, stevia is at its sweetest! The Guarani tribe in Paraguay have been using stevia leaves for generations to sweeten their infamous tea, called ka'a he'ê ("sweet herb"), which is brewed using yerba maté. Stevia packets of dried leaves are also a popular sales item because they can be used directly to sweeten tea.
  • Liquid stevia extract: a brown substance is derived from fresh or dried stevia leaves through an extraction process that uses alcohol and/or water. Used by the Guarany to treat various ailments, ranging from the balming of open wounds, to relieving beginning signs of diabetes. The most popular brands for liquid stevia extract are SweetLeaf (Wisdom Natural) and NuNaturals, because they combine quality with a wide array of flavors.
  • Raw stevia extract: stevia in the raw extract format is easy to use for the preparation of several delicious recipes. After the leaves are dried, they are ground up and the stevia herb is treated with fresh water. White stevia powder has close to no calories, the extract preserves its sweet taste.
  • Refined stevia extract: this stevia powder is the most popular format! The refined extract is sold in many countries. The glycoside substances stevioside and rebaudioside A are the components of a large array of products: in some Asian countries for example, stevia is already being used to replace the common artificial sweeteners in sodas!
  • Stevia blends: because stevia is many times sweeter than sugar, its sweetness might be too fierce for some. That's why the taste is often diluted by using moderate carbohydrates such as maltodextrin starch derived from corn or wheat, or natural sugars such as lactose, which can be found in the milk of all mammals. Most brands offer stevia packets or stevia tablets that can be used easily insead of sugar to sweeten food and beverages.

Stevia is used in a number of forms now, all over the planet, thanks to the recent approval of stevia by EFSA (the European Food Safety Authority)!


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