The resurgence of Afternoon Tea experience in the UK

A new survey finds there is a revival of the Afternoon Tea experience in the United Kingdom, particularly among younger generations.

Tea consumption has declined over the last few years (according to International Tea Committee data, tea imports over the past decade in the UK dropped from 128,000 tonnes to 111,000 tonnes), but Great Britain remains a nation of tea lovers. On average, Brits drink 3.61 cups a day with 46% of the population drinking four cups or more per day. JINGTM Tea commissioned a survey to uncover new consumer Afternoon Tea trends across the nation, which found that 28% of the UK population goes out for Afternoon Tea at least once a month.

Afternoon Tea has been a tradition in Britain since the 1800s. According to JING Tea, the story of Afternoon Tea begins in 1840 with a cup of tea, enjoyed by Duchess Anna of Bedford. Every day at 4pm she would have a pot of tea, while staring longingly at the clock, wishing the hours away until it was time for dinner. One day, having eaten very little at lunch, she could no longer bear the wait and ordered the kitchen to bring her pot of tea with some buttered bread and cakes and so the tradition began.

The JING Tea survey shows this tradition is making a comeback across the UK, with regional hotspots including London (52%) and the North East (35%) experiencing Afternoon Tea at least once a month. Many consumers are choosing to celebrate special occasions with Afternoon Tea, with 54% of 18-to 24-year-olds having Afternoon Tea at Christmas, and 43% of 25- to 34-year-olds celebrating a birthday with Afternoon Tea.

While cakes, biscuits (cookies), and sandwiches are an essential aspect of the Afternoon Tea experience – especially among the growing nation of foodies – the survey reports that 77% of the population cite quality of tea to be an important factor. Furthermore, 83% of 18-to 24-year-olds (Gen Z) and 92% of Londoners look for an ‘excellent choice of tea’ for their Afternoon Tea experience.

Further good news for the tea industry — the research also showed that loose leaf tea consumption is rising with 77% of Brits drinking loose leaf tea at least once a month and 69% of Gen Z choosing loose leaf tea at least once a week. When questioned, 35% of Gen Z said ‘[loose leaf] has more organic options’, while 20% believe it is more sustainable and 33% said that loose leaf offers ‘better quality tea’.

With a quarter of the nation drinking more loose-leaf tea now than a year ago; the survey shows that 55% of Brits drink loose leaf ‘at least once a week’. Weekly consumption figures in some regions are over and above this including: the South West (72%), London (66%), East Anglia (62%), the North West (59%) and the East Midlands (56%). In Wales, of those who are drinking more loose-leaf tea, 65% cite taste as the main reason for doing so, that is 11% more than the national average. Similarly, in the South West and the South East, 72% and 68%, respectively, of those drinking more loose leaf say they are doing so because it is more sustainable.

“The resurgence of Afternoon Tea and the need for a great choice and quality of tea particularly in Gen Z and Millennials supports our mission to provide excellent single origin tea choices for all ages,” noted Catherine Archer, CEO of JING Tea, which is a leading tea supplier to many high-end hotels. JING Tea commissioned the survey with One Poll and polled 2,000 respondents nationally.

According to the survey, English Breakfast/black tea remains the UK’s favourite tea to have with cake, but herbal tea and green tea are rising among Gen Z and millennials; with more men drinking herbal tea and women drinking green tea. Of the 18-to 24-year-olds polled “what they most commonly drink with cake,” 15% said green tea and 17% herbal tea.

While hotels, restaurants and cafés are still the preferred choice for Afternoon Tea and special occasions (57%), a growing number of consumers is choosing Afternoon Tea at home across all age groups but in particular: 30% of Gen Z (18 to 24s) and 31% of those aged 65 plus. According to JING Tea, since the pandemic, the evolution of home delivery and takeaway options from high end establishments through to local bakeries, factor into the increased accessibility enabling Brits to enjoy Afternoon Teatime as a get together with friends and family in the comfort of their own home as well as out and about.

Given the season, many hotels, restaurants and cafés are offering specially curated Holiday Afternoon Teas so, enjoy your cuppa!

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