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Tea time

24th Apr 2013 - 11:07
Ahmed Rahim, founder and CEO of organic tea experts, talks about tea trends in the US and what the future holds for out of home tea in the UK.

What are the tea trends in the US?

Tea is a growing segment and the out of home market has been growing steadily both sides of the Atlantic. In the United States it’s growing so quickly that it’s outpacing coffee consumption.  Some of the biggest growth areas are organic, premium gourmet teas that are sourced ethically and protect the farmers.

We’re seeing lots of emerging trends. Americans are becoming more aware of the amount of sugar and unnecessary calories they consume, so are looking at ways to reduce their intake and lead a healthier lifestyle.  Low quality teas become bitter quickly and, sugar and milk, which results in extra calories are usually added to make them more palatable.  Premium tea doesn’t become bitter in the same way, so we’re seeing more consumers turn to these as a healthier and more delicious option.

The fact that tea is known for its many health benefits and lower caffeine content also appeals to the more health-conscious consumer.

In the US we’re seeing an increasing awareness of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) with consumers starting to avoid these products. Our teas are certified non-GMO and we also worked with the Non GMO Project to become the first tea company to verify its tea bags as non-GMO. The majority of the fashionable transparent tea bags you see on the market use PLA “corn plastic”, which is a material sourced from GMO corn.

Tea’s popularity is apparent in the U.S. beyond the typical hot and iced tea “rituals” we are accustomed to. Mixologists in larger metropolitan areas like New York City are incorporating tea to create more unique, exotic drinks. Tea is also being used as an ingredient in food recipes by chefs and exploratory food enthusiasts.
Which of these do you see coming over to the UK?

I could see all of these tea trends coming to the UK eventually but this will happen in its own time and fashion. In some areas like organic and Fairtrade, the UK is already much further along than the US. With the other trends, only time will tell.
What does the future hold for the out of home tea in the UK?

There’s room for growth in the UK tea market and space for more diverse products. In the future we’re likely to see a more premium tea offering develop as well as more exotic teas like green tea varietals and pu-erh become everyday drinks. We’ll also continue to see the growth of specialty tea-houses and the extended use of tea delivery practices such as iced tea and do-it-yourself tea blends.
How does the tea market compare with the coffee sector?

Similar to the growth of the artisanal coffee industry in the 90’s, consumers are learning about the varying qualities and types of tea and becoming more educated. Consumers are more knowledgeable about their tea and demanding better quality when out of the home. The perception and understanding of high quality tea will drive the market in the same way coffee, and even wine, has.

Where do you see the tea market in five years time?

The tea market is set to grow as consumers continue to become increasingly engaged with the segment. This trajectory of growth seems to be imminent as it is tied in with other trends around consumers taking health into their own hands, balancing their consumption, lifestyle and stresses while looking for foods and beverages that taste good too.  

Describe what makes the perfect cuppa?

Water, equipment, presentation and the grade of tea are all essential ingredients in the perfect cup. Get all these right and you have a winning formula.

The ideal type of water for tea is spring water, which contains some minerals. Distilled water should always be avoided. Filtered tap water is the next best thing for allowing the flavours to develop. If you have to use tap water allow it to sit for a few hours so the heavier impurities can settle to the bottom and then use only the top half. Only heat the water to just below the boiling point. Tea is delicate so you do not want to shock the leaves and damage the taste by having the water temperature too high.

Glass or porcelain pots and cups make for the best presentation and give the best drinking experience.

For the best flavours you need to look at high-end premium teas. These can be steeped for longer and allow deeper, complex flavours to develop without the bitterness that comes with lower grade tea.

Is there anything that the foodservice sector can do to improve its tea offering?

Operators spend a lot of time and thought crafting the perfect dish, the right ambience, and experience. All too often they overlook the experience that good quality, organic tea blended with real ingredients can add. To develop their offering they should focus time into getting the right product for their business.

Premium tea can be served at a premium price and can be very profitable. The penny-to-profit story with tea is strong for the operator and can provide great incremental revenue.

Written by
PSC Team