How TikTok is driving the at-home tea and coffee revolution

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TikTok can’t be ignored. TikTok’s rise as the social network of choice for younger consumers is continuing apace and it has grown to become a cultural powerhouse offering content that is highly curated to the interests of the individual user, whether that’s fashion, sports, DIY, politics… or food and drink. 

TikTok’s 1.5 billion users make it a hugely influential tastemaker in the beverages space, particularly for Gen Z. And not just because of the volume of global users – but because TikTok is increasingly the platform Gen Z uses as a search engine over more traditional services like Google. In short, TikTok simply can’t be ignored. 

The at-home revolution 

With millions of creators sharing aspirational daily routine videos, how-to instructionals and recipes, we’re seeing tea and coffee beverages being prepared by consumers in highly innovative ways, which would previously only have been attempted in foodservice channels. From frothy matcha + vanilla oat milk lattes to rose milk tea with Lindt chocolate balls, these videos reference health trends, flavour innovation and moments of indulgence for consumers seeking to elevate their everyday consumption experiences.  

These videos are inspiring an at-home revolution, with consumers replicating the recipes, and developing new products of their own. What seems like light-hearted fun with beverages could indicate a major shift in consumer behaviour post pandemic and the resulting economic downturn.  

During Covid-19 we saw major growth in the trend for ‘in-speriences’, with consumers seeking new product experiences from the confines of their own home. This led to a surge in creativity, and at-home replication of typical out-of-home serves. As consumers look to tighten their belts, affordable indulgences such as coffee and tea drinks at home offer cost-effective ways to treat themselves.  

Here are some of the trends that are demonstrating this shift:  

TikTok Trend #1 – At-Home Coffee Station 

ASMR-esque videos of TikTok users creating their own ‘coffee stations’ have received millions of views on the app. In a bid to create an indulgent space, replicating the out-of-home experience, these videos show users organising their cups and coffee ingredients – pods, flavoured syrups, sugar, honey etc, in an aesthetically-pleasing way, ready for their next coffee break. 

Many users link the need for a coffee station with the shift at working from home post-pandemic, demonstrating the continued need for products that create a treat and indulgent moment at-home. It’s also highlighting the importance of coffee products that are visually appealing. 

TikTok Trend #2 – Tea Bombs 

Tea Bombs – a blend of tea and botanicals contained within a dissolvable sugar shell – have proved a huge hit on TikTok with users falling in love with the cutes-y aesthetic. And it’s easy to see why – tea bombs bring a sense of theatre to the process of drinking tea, with the glittering orb melting away to reveal the tea and botanicals within.  

This is perhaps one of the most challenging at-home serves we saw users of the platform create but does demonstrate the lengths to which consumers are going to create the sense of fun and indulgence at home, while seeking a creative outlet. 

TikTok Trend #3 – Replicating Foodservice Recipes 

TikTok users are not immune to the financial concerns facing consumers around the world, many of whom are looking for ways to reduce their spending, while maintaining affordable indulgences, to make themselves feel good. This cost consciousness is driving the trend for videos replicating foodservice recipes at-home, using store-bought ingredients, and showing a comparison of the cost equivalent per recipe.  

Rather than see this as stealing share, foodservice operators and beverage brand owners can facilitate consumers looking to shift consumption by developing branded products designed for the retail space. Starbucks even has a whole section of their UK website dedicated to ‘make it at home’ recipes for many consumer favourites.  

TikTok Trend #4 – Tea Lattes 

For many years, coffee has been the focus of out-of-home innovation, with foodservice outlets offering an exciting range of seasonal coffee flavours, different serve-styles and milks driving consumer intrigue. However, tea is having a moment driven, in part, by the phenomenal growth of bubble tea premiumising and modernising the tea-drinking experience out-of-home. 

These innovative serves have inspired creators to develop a wide range of tea recipes on TikTok ranging from tea lattes to homemade boba tea, which we expect to drive greater innovation and engagement in tea consumption out-of-home too. 

TikTok Trend #5 – TikTok as a trend monitor 

Picking just a few product trends from TikTok wasn’t easy and there is a staggering range of content being developed by innovative creators. It’s a rich source of ideas, and if these videos are anything to go by, our industry is heading in so many exciting new directions. But TikTok isn’t just a place for NPD inspiration, it’s also a place where attitudes are forged. Creators, often with a huge and dedicated following, can shape the worldview of their followers, and bring significant issues to the fore.  

One such topic is sustainability. Views of environmental content on TikTok have increased six-fold over the past year, and the top 40 climate-related hashtags have received 85 billion views in the last year alone (TikTok, 2022). Content creators are driving awareness, sharing ways to live more sustainably, and encouraging their viewers to become more involved in environmental issues.  

For the beverages industry, this could manifest in several ways – including an expectation that companies look to reduce waste, source products sustainably, and live up to ethical values. Brands and suppliers would be well-advised not to underestimate the importance of this trend for young consumers, and the power of capturing their admiration for delivering ethical, sustainable products.  

Whichever direction these trends take you in, there’s no denying that TikTok is an increasingly important place to understand how Gen Z is thinking about beverages.  

If you’d like to find out more about the trends and dynamics that are shaping our industry, why not download our Global Beverage Trends Report 2023? 

  • Siân Edwards is Finlays’ group insights manager, responsible for understanding the trends and dynamics that drive the global market for tea, coffee and botanical ingredients.

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