Innovative tea creations are really stealing the limelight

Tea creations from fresh tea leaves
© Deutscher Teeverband e. V.

After water, tea is the most popular and most frequently consumed drink worldwide. In fact, some tea drinks are even enjoying cult status. Nations such as China, Japan, Tibet, the countries of North Africa and the United Kingdom each have their own distinct tea creations and culture, which in some cases has been developed over many generations. However, young adults (as a target group) in particular are no longer content with just the traditional approach to tea. They are after new types of tea experiences – ones which ideally combine interesting taste sensations with functional benefits.

The tea market is, generally speaking, a growth market. The latest figures from the German Tea Association, the German Federal Statistical Office and the International Tea Committee from 2017 prove exactly that. Thanks to global growth of approx. 4%, 5.7 million tons of tea were produced in 2017 – more than ever before. In order of sequence, the biggest tea-producing countries continued to be China, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Together, they produced around 80% of the world’s tea.

Tea consumption in East Frisia is unparalleled

When European tea consumption figures are broken down by country, the United Kingdom ranks in first place with a per-capita consumption of 187 liters. This is followed by Ireland with 184 liters, Poland with 103 liters, the Netherlands with 52 liters, Sweden with 36 liters, the Czech Republic with 30 liters and Germany with 28 liters. However, if the East Frisians were taken as a separate population, they would blow the British out of the water, as they consume a staggering 300 liters a year on average per person.

Bottled ready-to-drink tea is taking off

Throughout Germany, black tea continues to be particularly popular. The market share of black tea compared to that of green tea is 73% to 27%. Around 60% of German tea drinkers consume loose tea compared to 40% who prefer tea bags. Organic tea is now highly popular. Its share of total consumption grew by just under 2% in 2017 to just over 9%.

In many parts of the world, tea is not just a consumer product but an important part of the culture. Japan, for example, is famed for its traditional tea ceremonies held in specially set-up tea rooms. 

Maximilian Wittig, Secretary General of the German Tea Association, describes the latest development trends: “Tea is more popular than ever, particularly among the young in the form of bottled ready-to-drink tea. This fits in well with young people’s urban lifestyles, whether they’re at home, on the go, playing sports or relaxing.”

Germans also enjoy herbal and fruit teas, having drunk 16.4 billion cups in 2017. Tea blends were the most popular in this area, with a 51.3% share – and that figure is rising. As expected, the most popular single-flavor varieties were peppermint, fennel and chamomile.

Mintel has identified five tea trends to look out for in 2019

“Consumers are developing a growing interest in more innovative tea,” confirms market research firm Mintel, which has identified five tea trends to look out for in 2019. People keen to avoid sugary drinks and alcohol are opting for tea creations with bold flavors, according to Mintel. These include, for example, Green Hills Rum and Honey from Poland, a rooibos tea made with rum and honey flavoring that is alcohol-free and enriched with a mix of cinnamon, apple, licorice and star anise. The market research firm also believes another trend to be tea infusions featuring vegetables, which it calls the “veggie revolution.” A prime example of this is the Spanish product Pompadour Veggie Mix Infusión de Verduras Relax, which combines tomato, rosehip, apple, onion, basil, cinnamon and passionflower. Time to relax – another broad concept set to define tea consumption in 2019. Mintel names Fabindia Organics’ Organic Tulsi Honey Chamomile Tea from India as a shining example here. It is not the chamomile alone that gives this tea its calming properties; holy basil (tulsi), used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, is also said to relieve stress.

The market research firm also predicts growth in the area of “power teas,” which combine naturally functional ingredients with added nutrients. One such example is Lipton Daily Boost Green Tea with Ginger, Lemon Verbena and Turmeric. Mintel’s fifth and final tea trend concerns a healthy gut. COFCO China Tea Pro Tea from Malaysia is a product adopting this kind of approach. It is dark and fermented and gets pressed into “tea bricks” or “tea cakes” for aging. It is said to reduce blood lipids, improve digestion and help with weight management.

There are now numerous tea creations that are cashing in on these trends. Aside from its Kombucha tea drinks, its Matcha Sparkling Green Tea and its Hibiscus Sparkling Tea, Carpe Diem (Austria), for example, recently launched its latest Kurkuma (Turmeric) Sparkling White Tea variety, which addresses the current trend for incorporating the now popular spice turmeric into products.

Cheese tea is helping people improve their image online

HeyTea is fulfilling a very different requirement of millennials on the Chinese market, namely that of being able to consume tea as a status object. HeyTea founder Nie Yunchen has managed to convince wealthy youth in China to stand in line for quite some time for his tea, which he sells with a thick layer of salty cream cheese on top.

Did you know that black and green tea are also known as “real tea?” This stems from the fact that both types are obtained from parts of the tea plant. Other teas are mostly manufactured from herbal infusions.

But they don’t wait in line just for the special taste of the tea itself; they do it to take a selfie of themselves with a cup of cheese tea. It is available as green tea, black tea, oolong tea and fruit tea, and you can even add fresh fruit if you like.

The team at HeyTea are working on coming up with even more new ideas. There are now more than 170 HeyTea stores in mainland China, plus two in Singapore and three in Hong Kong already. “HeyTea should make the younger generation see tea as being cool again,” according to a quote in the Spiegel from the founder, who seems to have really struck a chord with consumers and managed to encapsulate everything they want from tea.

Packaging is adapting

A few packaging producers are also keen to do the same. Studies have shown that demand among consumers for warm beverages that can be consumed on the go is rising, in particular in Asia. SIG has, for example, developed its new Heat & Go aseptic microwavable carton packaging, which, according to the manufacturer’s specifications, offers very good product protection, can be filled using standard filling machines and can be heated up to 60°C.

South Korea’s Seoul Dairy Cooperative was the first user to market a product (its Achimae Soy Milk) in this packaging. Swedish packaging producer Ecolean, on the other hand, manufactures lightweight Air Aseptic pouches that can also be heated in the microwave. SQZ, a well-established Chinese food company, decided to start using this packaging for its ginger tea drink.

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Unusual tea creations with further growth potential

Whether its with different varieties of tea drinks or innovative packaging for tea products, the market looks exciting both now and in the future. According to experts, young consumers in particular will remain open and extremely happy to try out new and unusual tea creations. So much the better if new developments take aspects such as sustainability, organic farming, functional ingredients and health benefits into consideration. And also if, like in the case of HeyTea, they are promoted as a kind of status symbol and help consumers project their individual lifestyles to the outside world.

Friederike Arndt

As a freelance trade journalist, Friederike Arndt is regarded as an expert in the area of beverages. She spent a long time writing for, inter alia, the trade magazines Getränkeindustrie (beverage industry) and Getränkefachgroßhandel (beverage wholesale trade). On the blog, she reports on the latest trends and innovations in the field of non-alcoholic beverages.