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How the world of tea is changing

8th May 2019 Print

There are few things in the world more ‘British’ than drinking tea. Tea-drinking has gotten us through some very difficult times: hard day at work? Cup of tea. Broken up with your boyfriend? Cup of tea. Economy collapsing? Better stick the kettle on. 

But according to reports, we may very well be sticking the kettle on a lot less. Yes, apparently, we Brits are drinking less traditional tea than we used to. However, we’re not ditching the traditional altogether — we’ve merely set our sights on new and interesting varieties. 

While traditional tea -drinking was down 870 million cups in 2017, the overall value of tea increased by 0.6%. This is largely seen to be caused by the wellness trend for herbal teas. 

Figuring out your tea-drinking type 

Let’s look at different approaches to tea-drinking, and how it affects the market. According to the Modern Tea Trends 2019 study, 50 per cent of tea brands identified the 24–35 year old group as their biggest growing demographic. Perhaps because of this, the view of tea has changed. It’s no longer a milky, warm beverage that sits on a table while people discuss problems, though it is still the go-to makeshift remedy for everything from a bad day at work to a broken leg for some. Now, tea has a swathe of health benefits to its name. It’s more than a murky brown leaf-water, it’s a bright and colourful variety of health and wellness beverages. 80 per cent of brands are watching the wellness trend as a key asset for tea. 

The National Tea Day group splits tea-drinkers into two main categories. Ready for a quick quiz to find out which type you are? 

1. Your perfect cup of tea would be…

a. Creamy or milky. Best described as a ‘hug in a mug’. 

b. Colourful. Whether it’s red, blue, green, or purple, it needs to be bright and beautiful. 

2. Is it more important to you for your tea to be comforting or healthy?

a. Comforting. If a good strong brew can’t fix it, it’s probably not worth fixing. 

b. Healthy. A good tea should give me energy, pep, and cleanse my inner being. 

3. Sensory-wise, you expect your tea experience to be…

a. Sweet, or sweet-ish. If you wanted to assault your tongue with bitter tones, you’d have ordered a coffee…

b. Sensual, or aromatic. The experience of my tea is not just in taste but in smell. It should pamper my nose as much as my tongue. 

Traditionalists answer mainly a. You care about your tea being a healing drink, but not necessarily in the sense of it carrying antioxidants or being hydrating. It’s just about comfort for you, a means to relax and calm down with a soothing cup of milky tea. 

Modernists answer mainly b. Times are changing, and so is your go-to tea. Your tea isn’t always designed to make you fall into a milk-and-sugar-wrapped blanket of cosy warmth. Sure, camomile tea will relax you when you need it, but you have tea for every occasion. For energy, for a cold, for digestion, for preserving health, for anxiety, you name it, you’ve got a type of tea to wind around all the senses and sort it right out. 

The changing vibe of tea 

Tea is more than just a drink; it’s an experience. This ties in with the rise of herbal teas over standard black leaf tea — herbal teas come in so many varieties, from all over the world, and often have intricate ceremonies or stories attached to them. These aspects are as much of the ‘sensual’ experience as the tea itself. Cafés and tea rooms have been using this to their benefit too, offering tea experiences for their customers, such as offering food created to complement the flavour of different herbal teas, or brewing the leaves in a beautiful antique silver teapot in order to achieve a higher brewing temperature than a normal teapot, and makes use of silver’s neutrality protecting the pure taste of the tea. The whole experience is catered for the customer’s enjoyment. 

Tea is also an easily customised drink. It can be enjoyed at home with full control over your personal taste, or out enjoying an aforementioned experience and story. 

Tea stories 

There are a number of stories behind a whole host of teas, many surrounding the potential health benefits. 

Hibiscus tea 

This ruby-hued brew is calorie and caffeine-free. It has a sweet and tart taste and is popular in North Africa and Southeast Asia. Particularly in Africa, hibiscus tea is touted as having many benefits, including helping with a sore throat and high blood pressure. Indeed, one study has noted that hibiscus tea contributed to the reduction of the systolic blood pressure of its participants. 

Barley tea  

Mildly nutty in flavour, barley tea is served hot or cold depending on the season and is popular in China Korea, and Japan. Like hibiscus tea, it is caffeine-free. There are a lot of health claims tied to barley tea, but only few have been proven by scientific study. These range from claims to help with cold symptoms, aiding a sore stomach, clearing complexion, and even weight loss. But, if nothing else, it’s a great caffeine-free alternative to coffee and traditional tea! 

Lemon and honey tea

The saviour of cold and flu sufferers everywhere. This golden-coloured tea has the main claim to fame for fighting cold symptoms, but it’s also been said to help with everything from weight loss to acne. With the vitamin C boost of lemon, and the cough-supressing nature of honey, this is a drink that does have some scientific backing in terms of helping with a cough and sniffles. But the claims of clearing acne and weight loss are unconfirmed by scientific study. Still, it is definitely one to reach for next time cold season comes around.

Green tea

There are many health stories behind green tea.  But are any of the stories true? Luckily yes. Green tea is packed with antioxidants and catechins, the latter of which could slow down bacterial growth. The green brew has also been claimed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and boost metabolic rate. 

Butterfly pea flower tea

This blue tea changes colour depending on the pH of ingredients added to it, making it an Insta-worthy drink. The sapphire hued drink has been used for centuries in Asia, but it’s only started fluttering into the western world of tea in recent years. The tea, like green tea, carries a lot of antioxidants, and has been tied to claims of protecting the skin. There are studies that support butterfly pea flower tea’s ability to help reduce internal inflammation. 

Nearly every tea seems to have a health claim behind it. But if nothing else, tea does count towards your daily water needs, with the dehydrating claims of tea having been debunked. So, top up that teacup — it’s trendy and healthy!