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Trend report lowdown: The Evolving Tea Landscape

From clever colour application to tantalising textures, we reveal how the tea industry is evolving and expanding.

OK, so tell us about tea…

Well, it’s really, really popular. Nothing new there, you might think, but over the last five years we’ve been tracking its ever-growing following, which today spans a range of consumer groups. By 2021, the global tea industry is expected to be worth $44.3bn – that’s a $9.4bn increase since 2013.  

Why are consumers so taken by tea?

It’s partly because things are getting a lot more exciting – and diverse – for out-of-home tea drinkers. We call it ‘tea theatrics’. 

For example, we’ve seen a new breed of specialist tea bars that focus on the slow, ritualistic aspects of tea brewing. This has given rise to a multisensory approach, where tea drinking is complemented by digitally enhanced visual and audio experiences.

Tea is also becoming more like wine, in that it’s perfect for food pairings or to drink alongside dinner. Indeed, fine dining restaurants have started offering upgraded tea experiences that deliver natural highs – minus the alcohol.

How else is tea evolving?

Colour. Tea doesn’t have to be brown anymore. In the US, we’ve seen bottled teas made from Kenyan purple tea leaves in addition to a bright blue variation of matcha tea powder. In the report, we explain how innovations like these aren’t purely aesthetic. 

So they have health benefits too?

They do – purple tea, for example, has twice as many antioxidants as green tea. But, more generally, we’re seeing a new breed of leafy beverage emerging that tackles specific health concerns.

Is tea’s evolution influenced by innovations in coffee?

Yes, which is understandable given the dominance of coffee shops. Take cold-brew coffee, sales of which grew 21% in the US between 2016 and 2017. Now, tea producers are creating high-quality cold-brew teas that focus on provenance, texture and creative flavours (hello, cream cheese). And coffee bars have started stocking them.

What else will the report teach me?

That the colour of a beverage – not just tea – can have a dramatic impact on how people experience taste. And how a tea from Japan goes perfectly with Cornish lamb with sweetbread, king oyster mushrooms and ramsons.

If you’re a Stylus member, you can access The Evolving Tea Landscape now. If you’re not, and you’d like to discover the benefits of joining, get in touch.