While coffee is often perceived as the nation’s favourite early morning wake-up-call, one beverage looks to be blowing the competition out of the water on a worldwide basis. And surprisingly, it comes in the form of the humble cup of tea.
“I think there is an urban myth that coffee has surpassed tea in terms of popularity - fact is that tea remains the second most consumed drink in the world after water, with the Global Tea business worth $90 billion annually and the UK retail market estimated at £654 million,*” says Nicola Simpson, co-founder of contemporary tea brand Tiosk . “We Brits drink 165 million cups a day compared to just 70 million cups of coffee; 70% of us had at least one cup yesterday, using up 25% of the nation’s daily milk consumption and 88% of the UK population purchases tea as part of their weekly shop.”
The business of tea is booming however, some varieties are enjoying greater success than others. In particular, health-boosting options are seeing the most noteworthy growth in recent times, with sales of standard black tea starting to dwindle. According to Mintel’s 2016 Tea and Other Hot Drinks Report: “Boosting the market were sales of green tea bags, fruit and herbal tea bags and speciality tea bags. These three segments now account for a combined 29% of value sales, up from 24% in 2013.”
One cause for the decline in black tea sales could be connected with the sheer volume of choice available nowadays. “Tea is definitely seeing a resurgence as more and more people are discovering that it can be so much more than just black tea with milk,” says Leah Anderson-O’Loughlin, tea brand T2’s Product Manager. “Across our 15 UK stores every day, we see repeat custom from people who, until stepping through our doors, had no idea this kind of variety and flavour existed in tea. We’re seeing people try things for the first time like our sugar-free fruit and herbal iced teas and experimenting with products like matcha and chai, then coming back for more.”
Age also plays a factor, with Leah also highlighting a switch in shopping habits in the young as an indicator of the change in tide in traditional tea preconceptions. “According to Mintel’s latest report there’s a rise in specialist and herbal varieties, with younger consumers now 50% more likely to be drinking more speciality teas than older demographics,” she explains. “25-34 year olds are now leading the way in speciality tea purchasing, which may have contributed to the reported drop in sales of traditional teabags.” She adds, “We’ve noted a shift in attitude towards tea, and are seeing uptake from a younger audience who are intrigued by some of the bigger, bolder flavours, and variety in our stores.”
Superfoods such as turmeric, guarana and beetroot have already been well publicised for their wellness powers and have proven resonance
Which teas are trending?
Providing an interesting insight into the changing ‘teascape’, it appears that demand is leaning more towards the functional rather than the conventional. “We are seeing a real hunger for newness, with drinks like matcha - a stoneground Japanese green tea full of antioxidants and highly caffeinated, becoming one of our bestsellers,” says Nicola Simpson. “ Chai - full of complex spicy undertones, is evocative of the Indian classic and runs a close second to matcha. Green teas such as Japanese Genmaicha - a green tea blended with roasted rice kernels giving a nutty, slightly savoury flavour and more specialist teas such as milk oolong , with its naturally milky flavour with hints of caramel, consistently feature in our top 10.”
Weather also seems to have a significant effect on consumers’ cuppa of choice, with our preferences blowing hot or cold depending on the season. “We see consistent seasonal trends yearly, especially in the UK where the weather very much dictates consumer wants,” says T2’s Leah. “In the winter months, we see more experimental chai flavours doing well and the success of iced teas in the summer marks a shift in attitude to a fresher taste - as well as being a healthy alternative to sugary drinks.”
The influence of wellness trends and in-demand ingredients also appears to have extended to our tea tastes too. Think superfoods and other wellbeing-boosting add-ons - a trend set to make the transition from niche to mainstream this year. “Superfoods such as turmeric, guarana and beetroot have already been well publicised for their wellness powers and have proven resonance,” says Leah. “We've used turmeric in our teas ‘ Carrot, ginger & turmeric ,’ and ‘ Shimmer & spice ,’ and we will be using it as a key ingredient in an exciting new launch this year!” She adds, “We expect the consumer interest in wellbeing and ‘superfoods’ to continue in 2017 too.”
Turmeric is the ‘sunshine spice’ currently having a huge resurgence at the moment and can also be found in Pukka’s Turmeric Gold Tea , £4.78, to coincide with the superfood invasion taking over our shopping aisle shelves. From high street to high end, there’s something for everyone and every taste, whether Fortnum & Mason Matcha at £25, The Niche Co ‘Cleanse’ Herbal Tea at £10, or Clipper’s Calmer Chameleon Organic Infusion at £2.39.
Also expect a rise in Tea Bars popping up in a town and now a gym near you too. Inspired by T2’s new Glow teas, Another Space - one of our favourite gyms - has even created a five-part programme called MoTeaVation to emulate the range’s abilities to awaken, energise and soothe. Combining elements of yoga and HIIT, it’s designed to work out both body and mind at five key moments during your day - all in the time it takes to brew the perfect cup. From waking up, to the dreaded mid-afternoon slump, each has been created to provide a much-welcomed ‘check-in’ when you’re feeling your most sluggish. The five-part video series will be launched on the 16th of January, with all five moments put together in a full 40-minute wellness session on the 27th of January. Intrigued? Book your space at anotherspace.london .
Proving a cup of tea can be anything but boring, the list of possibilities, combinations and now places to drink it are seemingly limitless. And while the sales of standard black tea may be on the decline, innovative combinations providing additional flavours and health benefits provide ample hope for the category’s future success. What can we expect next? “I think tea is at a really exciting juncture,” says Nicola. “I believe it will continue to become a hotbed of innovation, so the next big thing is difficult to call as there will be a plethora of new and exciting teas just around the corner…” It seems the world of tea is transforming, and fast.