The most important thing to remember about stevia, says chef Jared Ingersol, is that it’s not sugar. Despite the fact this super-sweet natural product is being billed as a natural, zero-calorie sugar alternative, it actually has a character of its own.

“Stevia has a really quite complex flavour profile,” explained Jared, who’s been using stevia since his  days as head chef and owner at Dank Street Depot. “You get the sweetness, but you’ve also got liquorice notes, and citrus, and certain astringency. Stevia really lingers on your tongue.”

And, from a chef’s point of view, stevia behaves very differently once you stick it on the stove. “Sugar’s an active ingredients, it melts at certain temperatures, and it caramelises. You can make things like marshmallows and butterscotch as sugar changes through different states,” he said. “Stevia doesn’t have those active components.”

Because stevia is the new kid on the block you might need to adjust your expectations - or use it in the appropriate way. “When people taste stevia and think what they’re going to be experiencing is sugar,” said Jared. “When you use it, you need to be aware of the flavour profile.”

Some flavours, like orange or pineapple, are particularly established in people’s palate. When you mess with them, diners notice. “If people expect it to taste like a really clean, clear flavour - like a jelly - it’s kind of a basic flavour,” Jared explained. “If you put stevia with that, it’s going to bring out a different flavour profile.”

To Jared’s mind, stevia works well with South American dishes, where it has been used for hundreds of year both fresh and in tea. Asian dishes are equally well-suited to the shrub’s unique taste. “In Asian salsas, where they rely on bitterness as part of their flavour structure, stevia works really awesomely,” he said. “You put stevia in there and it enhances those characteristics.”

Or, in a twist on its traditional use, Jared thinks stevia works beautifully in his chargrilled peach iced-tea. “I make a peach iced tea, where I chargrill the peaches to give them a really smokey flavour, and I found stevia works really well with that because the bitterness works well with mint.”

And, it doesn’t even need to be your lavish chargrilled peach tea to be improved by stevia, either. “I love sugar. I think it’s wonderful stuff. But I’m conscious about how much I eat,” he admitted. “I’ve been using stevia in my tea every morning. I find it enjoyable.”