April 21st is National Tea Day; a day to celebrate the UK’s favourite brew.
Tea, quintessentially British and having been around for centuries, has never seen as much innovation as it is now.
So, what are the tea trends to look out for?
When first introduced to the UK, tea was a luxury whole leaf product that only the very rich could enjoy. When the teabag was introduced in the early 20th century and demand grew, the production of tea had to be expanded and purpose-built tea plantations were introduced, mainly in Africa.
These used machine harvesting and what is known as the cut-tear-curl method. The quality of the tea inside the teabags was of a lower grade. For decades, this lower grade paper teabag continued to be popular across UK households.
The last few years has seen change, however, as hot drinks in general continue to become more premium. Higher quality whole leaf is becoming popular again At the same time, standard black tea is giving way to more novel speciality black tea varieties, green tea and herbal infusions.
The emphasis on quality and flavour is certainly a trend we expect to see continuing. With the consumer willing to pay that little bit more for a cup of tea that really piques the taste buds.
Increased focused on health, and subsequent lower alcohol consumption by younger generations has meant that the average age of a ‘tea drinker’ has significantly decreased. Most tea companies report that the biggest rise in tea consumption has been with the 25-35 year olds.
With new artisan brands entering the market and offering creative blends with exciting new flavours. Tea is shaking off what might have been a dusty image previously and becoming a cool and highly versatile drink.
Demand for plastic-free is increasing rapidly. About 96% of teabags currently still contain polypropylene, a synthetic resin, which is added during the sealing process. High-quality, 100% biodegradable pyramid teabags, made of cornstarch, have entered the market. The pressure is now on the large tea companies to change over to plastic-free teabags.
Although some of the bigger brands are dragging their heels. We expect to see a gradual move away from tea bags with plastic to fully biodegradable versions.
There’s a marked increase in general consumer interest and demand for healthy food and drink, and less sugar. Tea’s natural ingredients and minimal calorie content make it an attractive drink. Tea also contains L-theanine which is said to reduce stress and increase alertness. In addition, tea is full of antioxidants, with green tea containing the highest levels of a very potent antioxidant called EGCG (Epigallocatechin-3-gallate).
While the health benefits are inherent to the ingredients used, a definite rise is seen in tea brands marketing their blends as “wellness” choices.
Food and tea pairings
Bars and restaurants are seeing significant increase in demand for alcohol-free drinks. Lunch time sittings, especially during business meetings, often require alcohol-free beverages.
Tea has a fantastic ability to complement food dishes with a variety of flavour profiles. For this reason, more and more restaurants now offer a tea and food pairing menu alongside their wine pairing menu.
This is a trend that is just starting and one that will grow and grow.
While English Breakfast and Earl Grey are favourites that are here to stay. Fresh expressions of these classics are becoming popular, such as the smooth and more modern Citrus Grey and The Big Smoke. As the demand for green tea continues to grow, so do its flavour varieties.
About the Author
With high quality ingredients, hand blended in the UK, Roqberry offers both unique flavoured blends as well as top quality artisan varieties. Flavours include fresh expressions of classic blends, such as smooth and sunny Citrus Grey, as well as extraordinary new fusions like savoury Sushi & Spice.
The naturally caffeine free infusions range from spiced Turmeric Chai to floral Bloom Box. And the speciality Tea Legends include artisan varieties like Jasmine DragonPearls that remain true to tradition.