Re-energizing Britain’s passion for tea

Alex Morgan

The United Kingdom played the United States in the FIFA Women’s World Cup soccer/football semi-final on Tuesday (2 July).

Following what turned out to be the game-winning goal for the US, forward Alex Morgan faced the stands and made a celebratory gesture. At first, I thought she was imitating smoking a cigarette, but on the replay, it appeared that she was pretending to drink a cup of tea. Whether she was trying to one-up her teammate Megan Rapinoe’s goal-winning celebrations, a lighthearted “that goal’s our cuppa tea” or more of a sarcastic “drink that cuppa tea” (apparently Morgan was receiving a lot of bad press in the European papers leading up to the match), the antic created a furor among many British soccer/football fans. And the Brits do love their tea!

According to the UK Tea & Infusions Association, 84% of the British population drink tea and herbal infusions every day, which translates to approximately 100 million cups of tea per day per International Tea Committee statistics. And although the use of loose-leaf is rising, 96% percent of British tea is consumed from tea bags. Nearly 98% of tea-drinkers in the UK take milk in their tea.

There is a decline in tea consumption in the UK (as well as imports) per Brandongaille.com. Although nearly half of British consumers still drink one to two cups of tea per day, the percentages of those who drink one or fewer cups of tea is on the rise. (Coffee consumption in the UK continues to grow with about 70 million cups drunk daily, per the UK Tea & Infusions Association.)

However, tea remains an incredibly popular beverage in Great Britain and more consumers are purchasing higher quality and premium teas. A report from the UK National Tea Day, Modern Tea Trends 2019, revealed that the tea community has transformed into a dynamic one with specialty teas playing a huge role, tea being utilized outside of a hot beverage, and consumers building a direct relationship with brands that have strong values and unique modern product ranges. For example, “high luxury” tea brand The Amber Rose Tea Company markets itself as a high fashion product range to engage high end consumers. (The brand’s Majesty Blend features real gold leaf and retails for £100.00.)

A survey of tea brands for the report found that 50% of their consumers are 24-35 year olds, their biggest growing demographic, with 70% of growth being driven by females. The results of the survey also highlight the huge generational disparity between tea drinkers. Whereas traditionalists associate tea with a ‘builders’ brew,’ the modern consumer sees tea as a sensory experience with much more diversity.

“The perception of tea has changed massively among younger generations, it is now seen as a sensual and wellness drink,” said Marco Geraghty, head of research at National Tea Day, in the report.

As in the US, the health and wellness trend is fueling tea sales in the UK. According to the survey, 80% of the brands see health and wellness as a key trend. “While traditional black teas will always be popular, we are also noticing some changes in terms of who is drinking tea and why. More and more consumers are looking for drinks that give them specific health benefits and demand for healthy green and herbal teas is growing,” said Andy Bryon of Teapigs, in the report.

While tea brands are looking to tap into key trends like health and wellness and tea-on-the go, as well as to expand tea-drinking occasions, the report notes that many F&B establishments in the UK want to enhance the tea-drinking experience by creating elaborate afternoon teas such as The Scientific Afternoon Tea at The Ampersand or the ‘thoroughly modern’ Roseberry afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. (I’m going to have to try both the next time I’m in London!)

The mission of the UK National Tea Day organization is to “reignite Britain’s passion for tea.” With her dubious celebratory gesture, Alex Morgan may have further fueled the UK’s fervor for tea!

Just a reminder that the deadline for entries to the Tea & Coffee Supplier Awards has been extended until 12 July. The awards are open to all tea and coffee suppliers globally. There is no charge to enter. To enter, send a 200-word description on why your entry is a deserving winner to miranda@bellpublishing.com.

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