The tea sector is being shaken up by an increasing number of functional, speciality and green teas, but there is still room for black teas, as long as the quality is right. Jane Wolfe sees what’s brewing
The innovations being seen in tea are taking the category into multiple sectors, from sports health to diet and detox, superfoods to gut health. And the products are breaking boundaries too: not just green, but green with fruit; not just fruit, but fruit with function. The combinations seem endless.
But let’s start with the basic cup of black tea. In its Tea and Other Hot Drinks 2016 report, Mintel says the market share of ordinary tea bags declined from 66% in 2013 to 61% in 2015, with younger people drinking less black tea than the older generation. However, younger drinkers are more likely to drink speciality teas, green tea and fruit tea, indicating that these are areas are ripe for growth.
Young at heart
“Tea brands need to increase the appeal of their products to 16-34-year-olds,” Richard Caines, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel believes. “One way of encouraging more tea drinking among younger consumers is with more choice of flavours and indulgent varieties.”
Clipper brand controller Rebecca Vercoe concurs: “The younger generation are the biggest growth area for Clipper, and developing new products which appeal to these consumers is absolutely vital to the future health of the tea market.”
“The fastest growing part of the market is younger people,” says Erica Moore, founder and MD of Edinburgh loose-leaf tea company, eteaket, which has a tea room in the city and is shortly opening a retail store too. “We do tea cocktails and we’re soon to launch a gin tea – we do all sorts of fun things with tea to make people to see it in a different light and get them to try different things – little stepping stones to introduce people to proper tea.
“We are trying to shake up the tea market and promote a modern British tea culture – to get rid of its dull and dated image and make it exciting.”
Higher Living recently rebranded in response to the changing market and retail environment. “We like to appeal to the young at heart,” says Keith Garden, MD of brand owner Only Natural Products. “The markets evolve, and whilst the older design was liked, it was sometimes confused with other brands and was a bit fussy. We wanted a bright and bold design to reflect the bright and bold teas and infusions inside.”
“Although we have a wide consumer we over-trade with a younger group of consumers that marketeers like to term ‘millennials’,” explains Tim Westwell, co-founder of Pukka – the fastest growing tea brand in the UK, according to Mintel, with a 2% share of the market. “And, because much of the growth in the category is coming from this younger group, it’s vital that we continue to appeal to them. I think the vision that Sebastian I began Pukka with – to do good through commerce – really resonates with this group.”
There is beginning to be a real resurgence in specialist loose-leaf teas, with flavour and quality being crucial in this sector. “Ethics and origins are really important to people now, and I think that loose-leaf tea is part of that,” explains Moore. “We try and source directly and actually visit some of the tea gardens; we’re also a member of the Ethical Tea Partnership. More people are now thinking about the companies and what they stand for, and want to buy from small independent suppliers. The fact that we can actually talk about where our teas come from and how they’re made has become much more important than having a badge.”
She adds: “I’m absolutely passionate about getting people to appreciate proper tea and what goes into it, because it’s such a lot of work, and the workers need to be paid properly. If they’re not, it’s not sustainable. We can’t go on with teabags at a penny a piece – it’s ridiculous.”
And Moore believes the rise of loose-leaf tea will continue. “I think both in the out-of-home and home market people will start to drink a lot more leaf tea – probably in leaf teabags to start with, but hopefully in the next few years they will turn to loose-leaf tea.”
Garden has seen a rise in popularity of Higher Living’s loose teas too. “We have recently invested in state-of-the-art production for loose teas at our Gloucester factory – they are doing really well and we have plans to extend the range further in 2017.”
Rahim Afshar, MD of UK tea company Ahmad Tea, forecasts an elevation in the consumption of speciality teas going far beyond the UK’s current offering. “The UK market has a long way to go to catch up with major speciality tea drinking countries in terms of the quality, variety and innova-tion offered on the tea shelf.” He says that in the US and Russia there are product subcategories almost unknown in the UK, such as dessert teas, cold brew teas and tea gifts, indicating plenty of untapped potential.
As with chocolate, speciality teas can be positioned as a treat and encourage consumers to trade up. Afshar adds: “There will be a return to loose leaf as consumers want more depth of flavour and a luxurious experience when drinking tea, setting it apart from everyday tea.”
Growth areas of the tea market include green, fruit, herbal and speciality teas, which account for a combined 29% of value sales, up from 24% in 2013, with green tea adding the most value to the market. In fact sales of green tea bags grew by 39%, speciality bags by 8% and fruit and herbal bags by 13% against an estimated drop in overall tea sales of 5% in 2016.
Green tea can be an acquired taste for some, so to help ease the transition to a healthier cuppa, Clipper’s green tea range expanded last year to include fruity variants such as Cranberry & Mango, Lime & Ginger and Pear & Honey.
Higher Living has also boosted its green tea flavour with Chai, Lemon and Coconut varieties, and one of Heath & Heather’s latest developments is the unusual Organic Green Tea & Avocado combination.
Whereas iced teas are much bigger in Europe than in the UK, there are a number of new brands launching here, and some with a green slant. Tg Green Teas’ line comprises Green Tea with Ginseng, Green Tea with Mandarin & Ginseng, Green Tea with Jujube & Ginseng. And Teapigs offers ready-made drinks combining matcha green tea with spring water and either elderflower or apple juice.
Providing a function
Westwell says that consumers are coming in to the
fruit, herbal and green tea categories for a variety of reasons, led by greater interests in a healthy lifestyle, lifestage or a specific health concern. “They aren’t just looking for a tea which looks and tastes great, but one which also delivers a functional benefit – from helping them to sleep, supporting their digestion or even rebooting their energy levels,” he says.
Indeed Mintel research has found that 30% of people are interested in trying black tea with health benefits while 27% are interested in herbal teas with such benefits.
“An increasing awareness and desire for provenance and transparency from both millennials and baby boomers will drive demand for natural and ethical solutions to wellbeing,” says Westwell. “This is great news not just for organizations like Pukka, but also for other ethical and healthy brands, as well as the independent retail sector who has led the way
in this area.”
The recently launched t-plus brand offers four functional teas combining green tea leaf enriched with vitamins, fruit and herbs tailored for specific effects: MultiVitamin, Boost, Detox and Immunity.
And with ever increasing research indicating the importance of gut health to overall wellbeing, Stir Drinks’ Daily Cultures has introduced a range of probiotic teas comprising Breakfast Tea, Green Tea and Peppermint Tea, with each serving containing over one billion friendly bacteria.
Heath & Heather is also focusing on the functionality of ingredients with the launch of its Energizing Morning Time; Relaxing Night Time; Detoxing Slim Tea; Digestive Super Seeds; and Supportive Root Remedy.
Much about matcha
Matcha is proving a popular and versatile ingredient as well as a health-giving hot drink. Packed full of vitamins and minerals, Japanese matcha is a natural source of slow-releasing caffeine.
Pukka’s Tim Westwell says: “Matcha, made from using the tips of the green tea leaf, is prized for the huge levels of antioxidants it contains. Matcha blends are gaining in popularity as a more natural way to start the day energized.” He believes that matcha’s health benefits have been so well researched that it is unlikely to be a passing fad.
Pukka’s matcha line includes Serene Matcha Green, Clean Matcha Green, Mint Matcha Green, and what it calls its star performer, Supreme Matcha Green.
Up Your Matcha is a new brand providing both a premium and culinary grade, organic matcha green tea powder in 40g and 1kg pack sizes.
T-tox recently launched a matcha tea range developed specifically for the fitness market, including the pre-workout blend
Matcha Energise, incorporating ginger, guarana, ginseng and ginkgo biloba; and one of Heath & Heather’s latest launches is Organic Imperial Matcha Super Green Tea & Seaweed.
Clipper Teas has added to its range of Organic Infusions with quirky names and pack designs aimed to appeal to younger consumers. The new teas are Calmer Chameleon, Happy Mondays, Skinni Minti and Skinni Vanilli.
A golden cuppa
Higher Living’s recent launches include Organic Peppermint & Liquorice, Strawberry & Watermelon and Golden Turmeric, described as a spicy infusion of turmeric, ginger and liquorice enlivened with aromatic rose petals.
Yuyo it’s yerba mate
Yuyo’s range of certified organic yerba mate comes in both teabags and loose leaf and comprises: Pure Yerba; Yerba Zing, with grapefruit essential oil, orange and lemon peel and rosehips; Yerba Mint; and Yerba Spice.
Hampstead Teas most recent additions include a UK first – Velvety Cocoa Green, an innovative blend of whole leaf Darjeeling green tea and cocoa – as well as three organic spiced chais in Energy, Karma and Life varieties.
Tea with benefits
Begu Tea’s range is designed to meet specific needs, spanning the diet sector with its Appetite tea, containing green tea, peppermint, liquorice and cinnamon; detoxing with System cleanse; and stress with its Calm variety.
Clearspring Organic Ceremonial Matcha
Grown by third generation tea growers high in the hills around Kyoto. Made from only the finest, smallest shade grown leaves from the very tip of the tea bush – giving it a very vibrant green colour and a slightly sweet, smooth flavour. The leaves are dried, ground in granite mortars into concentrated matcha powder and packed on the estate to ensure maximum freshness and fullness of flavour. The matcha is foil wrapped in the tin to reduce the occurrence of oxidation and comes in convenient resealable packaging.
Essential Fairtrade Teas
Essential produces one of the finest quality ranges of certified fairtrade and organic herbal infusions. These are ethically-sourced and produced biodynamically to Demeter-certified standards by their farming partners at Sekem. This Fairtrade project in Egypt is located on an area of reclaimed desert wasteland that has been transformed into fertile farmland over 36 years. These delicious teas (rrp £1.40 30g 20 tea bags) – Camomile, Camomile & Spearmint, Fennel, Hibiscus, Peppermint, Peppermint & Spearmint – are blended and packed on site for maximum freshness. The teas are packaged in bright, distinctive designs that reflect the passion behind the brand.
Higher Living Golden Turmeric
Higher Living’s Organic Golden Turmeric is a spicy infusion of the finest organic turmeric along with fiery ginger and sweet licorice. This is balanced with aromatic rose petals to create a beautiful infusion with a complex palate. Higher Living’s Golden Turmeric makes up a part of their range of 23 organic teas and herbal infusions available in string, tag and envelope teabags. All of the products are produced in the brands own production facility in Gloucester and are available through most wholesalers. Prices: £6.60 per case (4 units per case) RRP: £2.20 Available from: Tree of Life, CLF, Suma, Queenswood, Infinity Foods
Dr Stuarts Green Tea Ginger & Seaweed
Functional tea brand Dr Stuart’s have announced the launch of their latest product, Green Tea Ginger and Seaweed. Made with the finest Fucus Seaweed which is hand harvested from the rocky coastline of Northern France, this blend is rich in vitamin E and antioxidants. All 21 Dr Stuarts Extraordinarily Good Teas are all formulated by PhD Ethnobotanist, Dr Malcolm Stuart and packed in the brands own production facility in Gloucester and are available through most wholesalers. Prices: £7.23 per case (4 units per case) RRP: £2.40 – Available from: Tree of Life, CLF, Suma, The Health Store, Queenswood, Infinity Foods, Goodness Foods
Higher Living Morning Mojo
Higher Living’s Organic Morning Mojo is a lively blend of green tea, green coffee, cocoa peel, and ginseng for the ultimate energy boost to help you rise and shine! Higher Living’s Morning Mojo makes up a part of their range of 23 organic teas and herbal infusions available in string, tag and envelope teabags. All of the products are produced in the brands own production facility in Gloucester and are available through most wholesalers. Prices: £6.60 per case (4 units per case) RRP: £2.20 Available from: Tree of Life, CLF, Suma, Queenswood, Infinity Foods
Pukka Organic Clean Matcha Green
Part of our latest Matcha Green tea range, Clean Matcha Green is bursting with organic Sencha green tea and the finest matcha from the volcanic island of Jejo do Garucha, off the coast of South Korea. Blended with the delights of dandelion, fennel & lemon, one cup is packed full of antioxidant properties and is perfect for spring-cleaning the mind, body and spirit.
Heath & Heather Organic Super Teas
Herbal pioneers, Heath & Heather, are converting their range to organic and launching new functional “Super Teas”. With a large portfolio spanning herbal infusions, green teas, white teas, chai and rooibos, Heath & Heather is focused once again on educating the nation about the benefits of simple, organic medicinal herbs. To reinvigorate their herbal tea range, the team determined five key consumer rationale for purchasing healthy products and from this developed a core range of five Organic Super Teas with clear functional benefits: ‘Energising Morning Time’ with guarana and ginseng, ‘Relaxing Night Time’ with valerian root and hops, ‘Detoxing Slim Tea’ with yerba mate and psyllium, ‘Digestive Super Seeds’ with fennel and fenugreek, and ‘Supportive Root Remedy’ with turmeric, ginger and galangal roots.