There aren’t many things that are considered to be more ‘British’ than drinking a good old cup of tea. It might be surprising to learn then that we are drinking less tea than we used to.
While the value of tea rose by 0.6% in 2017, the overall number of cups of tea drank dropped by 870 million cups. With the market clearly not struggling, why are we drinking less?
Simply, we’re drinking less traditional tea, but we are generally drinking more herbal tea.
With the trend for wellness and self-care on the rise, it’s easy to see the appeal of these colourful drinks.
Different types of tea-drinker
We’ll first look at the changing behaviours of tea-drinks and how it impacts 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.
There are two main types of tea-drinkers, says the National Tea Day group. Ready for a quick quiz to find out which type you are?
1. 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.
2. Is it more important to you for your tea to be comforting or healthy?
a) If a good strong brew can’t fix it, it’s probably not worth fixing.
b) A good tea should give me energy, pep, and cleanse my inner being.
3. Your perfect cup of tea would be…
a) Creamy or milky. Best described as a ‘hug in a mug’.
b) Whether it’s red, blue, green, or purple, it needs to be bright and beautiful.
By mainly answering with a, you are a Traditionalist. 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.
By mainly answering with b, you are a Modernist. 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.
How tea is changing
The calming nature of having a cup of tea is more than just drinking it. 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.
Another benefit of tea is that you can easily make it your own. It can be enjoyed at home with full control over your personal taste, or out enjoying an aforementioned experience and story.
Behind the brew
There are a number of health claims and tales behind teas, so let’s take a look at a few:
Red tea — hibiscus
This red tea is free from calories and caffeine. 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.
Orange tea — barley
Korea, China, and Japan serve this popular drink hot or cold depending on the season. 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!
Yellow tea — lemon and honey
Lemon and honey tea has brought reprieve to many cold and flu sufferers. 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 is no stranger to health stories and claims. 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.
Blue tea — butterfly pea flower
Not only does this drink have claims of health benefits, but it also changes colour when you add lemon to it! Instagram, here we come! 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.
Indigo tea — blackcurrant
This one’s definitely more than just hot Ribena! Herbal blackcurrant tea doesn’t always brew with a purple hue, strictly speaking. But the purple berries that make this tea bring some great potential benefits to your tea cup, such as a high vitamin C level, antibacterial properties, and reducing inflammation.
Violet tea — purple
This humble-named tea has flown under the radar. But its alternative name, ‘ox-blood’, sounds much more ferocious. It is claimed that purple tea could compete with green tea for the crown of most purported health benefits, such as claims to help protect against cardiovascular diseases and there are even stories of it improving vision.
A lot of the claims behind teas haven’t been fully examined in a scientific setting. 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 tea cup — it’s trendy and healthy!