New survey reveals increase in loose-leaf tea consumption in UK during lockdowns

Photo courtesy of JING Tea

Specialty-coffee consumption may be growing in the United Kingdom, but Brits still love their tea – maybe even more so now – particularly in the teabag format. In fact, 61 billion teabags are used in the UK annually, enough to cover 31,000 football (soccer to those in the United States) pitches! However, a new consumer survey by JING Tea has revealed several evolving tea trends that have been occurring in the UK since Covid-19 lockdowns began in March 2020, and topping the list, along with taste, is sustainability.

The poll by the London-based, single-origin tea brand found that the lockdowns since last March have not only led to an increase in tea drinking in the UK, but that Brits are making more mindful decisions about their teas, with people choosing to drink more loose-leaf tea, which benefits both tea drinkers and the environment.

Commissioned by JING Tea, the survey amongst 2,000 British tea drinkers was conducted via OnePoll in late December 2020. Of those 2,000 tea consumers surveyed, each teabag user requires an average of four teabags a day for their cups of tea – a total of 1,460 each year. Across the UK, this means almost 167 million teabags are binned or composted every day.

The poll found that 27% of Brits have drunk more tea since the lockdowns began, with 34% of those surveyed reporting that they turn to tea for comfort and one in ten “putting on the kettle in a crisis.”

With increased time to focus on lifestyle choices due to lockdowns, tea drinkers reported a few elements that had become more important to them over the last year regarding tea:

  • Almost half (49%) cited taste;
  • One in five (22%) noted sustainability and;
  • Just over one in ten (12%) said the origin of their tea was more important to them than a year ago.

Of those surveyed, 24% said that they had upped their loose-leaf consumption since lockdown and 94% of loose-leaf drinkers reported that they expected to drink as much or more loose leaf in the year to come. This switch links to the fact that one in three (34%) consumers said that they drink loose-leaf tea as it tastes better and one in four (25%) drink it due to its reduced packaging.

While an increase in consumption of loose-leaf was reported across the country, the survey found that London had the most people increasing their consumption with 34% of those questioned saying they were drinking more than before lockdowns. London was also the top region for saying that sustainability had become more important over the last year (35% vs 22%) and the top region for actively hunting out origin-based teas (32% vs 21%).

Men, who are twice as likely than women to choose loose-leaf for its mindfulness and calming properties (15% vs women at 7%), are also more likely to choose loose-leaf for its quality (38% vs 30%).

The loose-leaf consumption among 25- to 34-year-olds was the highest of those age-groups surveyed, with one in three (34%) saying they were drinking more since March. This group (consisting of Gen Zers and millennials) was also the most likely to say that sustainability had become more important to them in the last year (31% vs average of 22%).

Ed Eisler, founder of JING Tea, which is served in high-end hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants across the world, said, “It is great to see that with more time in recent months, people have been making more considered choices and exploring the world of loose-leaf teas, which are not only better for tea drinkers, but also for the planet. Whilst there is a time and a place for teabags, loose-leaf tea gives you access to a world of teas with real ‘wow factor’ and depth of flavour, sourced from single gardens with unique terroirs and created by artisanal craftsmen whose skills have often been passed down over centuries.

When asked what held them back from using loose-leaf tea at all or more often, the survey found that 64% of teabag-only drinkers said they avoid loose-leaf tea as they believe it to be ‘too messy.’ Although, according to JING Tea, this does not appear to be true as people start to drink loose-leaf given that only 9% of those who drink loose-leaf tea find it messy.

Eisler added, “Loose-leaf tea might be considered by some to be messy or difficult to make, but it’s actually even easier than making a fresh cup of coffee.”

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