First cigarettes, now table sugar? Cafe wants to raise the bar for healthier alternatives

The Sugar Trade cafe owner Angela Humphrey says the point of her shop is to show people how you can trade sugary food ...
JARED NICOLL

The Sugar Trade cafe owner Angela Humphrey says the point of her shop is to show people how you can trade sugary food for healthier alternatives.

First it was smoking, now should table sugar disappear from Wellington's cafes?

The Sugar Trade cafe in Wellington's northernmost suburb of Tawa was so-named because its goal is to show customers how table sugar can be swapped for healthier alternatives.

The cafe uses fructose-free sweeteners such as rice syrup, sugar alcohols, stevia (a plant-based sugar substitute), and occasionally glucose, to create all sorts of treats, including mixed berry cheesecake and even chocolate cake.

Chocolate cake made with glucose powder instead of table sugar, and rice syrup in the cocoa butter icing.
JARED NICOLL

Chocolate cake made with glucose powder instead of table sugar, and rice syrup in the cocoa butter icing.

It also offers savoury snacks such as bowls of cashews, almonds and pistachio nuts, salmon with cream cheese on oat cakes, and blue cheese on crackers.

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Owner Angela Humphrey said her cafe was free of fructose, a fruit sugar found in common table sugar that was linked to increased weight gain and all the bad stuff that can come with it such as diabetes and heart disease.

The cashew balls are made from ground cashew nuts and oats with with butter and rice syrup, topped with lemon zest and a ...
JARED NICOLL

The cashew balls are made from ground cashew nuts and oats with with butter and rice syrup, topped with lemon zest and a dusting of coconut. Their bums are dipped in high cacao dark chocolate.

"That's our reason for being. There's a lot of people working on dropping sugar from their lives, but the moment they step out of their own house, they're just drowning in sugar.

"It's hard to find a place to get together with friends without sugar coming at you.

"People kind of know it's not good for you, but they don't really understand how bad it is."

The base of the berry cheesecake is gluten-free and made with nuts, vanilla, butter and egg but not flour. The filling ...
The Sugar Trade cafe

The base of the berry cheesecake is gluten-free and made with nuts, vanilla, butter and egg but not flour. The filling on top is cream cheese with mixed berries sweetened by ricy syrup - and a couple of other secret ingredients - that gets set in the fridge. Topped with low sugar chocolate.

Humphrey ran healthy-living workshops before opening the cafe in April, and now holds some sessions there.

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She thought her cafe might be the first of its type in Wellington or even New Zealand.

Whitby resident Jane Dagger enjoyed a cup of coffee and "something divine with apricot and nuts" with her friend Janet Gill at the cafe a couple of weeks after it opened.

Hummus with vege sticks and a bowl of pistachio and cashew nuts at The Sugar Trade cafe in Tawa.
JARED NICOLL

Hummus with vege sticks and a bowl of pistachio and cashew nuts at The Sugar Trade cafe in Tawa.

"I probably wouldn't have had anything to eat if it had sugar," Dagger said.

"Over the years, my sweet tooth has disappeared. It's not something I have to have."

Gill remembered putting brown sugar and cream on porridge with a bit of butter underneath, but times had changed and now bothwomen wanted to avoid table sugar as much as possible.

Hot chocolate sweetened with stevia, a plant-based sweetener, with a couple of sugarfree marshmallows also made with ...
JARED NICOLL

Hot chocolate sweetened with stevia, a plant-based sweetener, with a couple of sugarfree marshmallows also made with stevia, and a bit of sugar alcohols on the side.

But the deal-breaker for most people when it came to cafes was still enjoying a cup of coffee how they like it.

"We've got a sneaky pot of sugar we can slip out to them [if they want it]," Humphrey said. "We know you can't mess with people's coffee."

NZ Dental Association spokesman Rob Beaglehole said cutting out a lot of table sugar was "a move in the right direction".

GREAT, BUT WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?

The chocolate cake is sweet but not rich. While the texture may seem slightly heavier than expected, its moist, velvet slice is soft and satisfying. Don't be fooled by the lack of table sugar: the rice syrup in the icing still carries plenty of bite for your sweet tooth.

The base of the mixed-berry cheesecake is packed with tasty, fresh nuts, that deliver a satisfying crunch below a smooth cream cheese filling. Rice syrup, again, gives it the sweetness you might expect without the guilt.

Hot chocolate made with stevia, a plant-based sugar substitute, is not quite as sweet as a teaspoon or two of table sugar but it's sweet enough to add a measured dash of yumminess without being excessive.

 - Stuff

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