By Greg Gonzales
Tea markets are growing, and growth won’t be slowing down any time soon, thanks to a multi-generational boost. The U.S. tea market has grown 15 times its size since 2009 and was worth $10.8 billion in 2014, according to the Tea Association of the USA’s “2014 State of the Industry” report. Loose-leaf tea in particular has gained popularity as a specialty product, hydration alternative and health product, while ready-to-drink tea has seen similar success on supermarket shelves. The report also said that tea is the second-most consumed beverage in the world, after water.
The same Tea Association of the USA report, compiled by Tea Association President Peter Goggi, cited Millennials as the major demographic driving market growth. “Several aspects of the market are driving Millennial interest in tea,” Goggi said. “The access to tea has been easier and much more common for them; they’ve grown up drinking tea, as preteens, and they also gravitate toward products that appeal to them. Tea fits in because Millennials want to be engaged with the products they buy — where it comes from, how it’s made, its naturalness — tea fits into this beautifully because it comes from different countries and it’s an agricultural product, so Millennials can get involved.”
He added that Baby Boomers have gotten involved in the conversation, too, and are increasingly joining the public discourse with Millennials.
Topics to share include the teas’ origins, and how different processing yields different kinds of tea. Pu-erh tea, for example, is aged and pressed into cakes, making an extremely dark brew that exclusively contains the cholesterol-lowering compound, lovastatin. Specialty teas use the best leaves, while low-grade teas consist of fannings, or what amounts to dust left over from processing high-grade leaves. Farms throughout the world employ their own growing techniques, which also yields a different product. Enthusiasts can learn nearly everything about the origins of a specialty tea, and share their preferences through endless social networks, online and offline.
Entrepreneurs and tea chains across the globe are taking notice of this trend. While large tea exporters like Zhejiang Tea Group have expanded more into U.S. markets, small tea businesses in North America are beginning to flourish as they adapt to the growth. “With everyone on social media to distribute content for social reward, tea is the budding connoisseur’s dream,” said Stuart Lown, National Sales Manager of Takeya USA. “There’s so much to learn about tea, fresh fruit and herbs — so much to learn about healthy hydration, to share with friends and family.”
Takeya specializes in tea infusers and pitchers that simplify home brewing and improve the flavor of the tea. One of their products, the fruit infuser, allows consumers to add new flavors outside the tea itself. By providing an easy method for making homemade iced tea, Lown said, Takeya makes quality tea more accessible to the everyday consumer.
“We specialize in bringing loose-leaf tea home, allowing consumers to quickly and easily brew premium teas and to chill those quickly, which allows people to get the health benefits from the tea,” said Lown. “When you brew the tea with a Takeya system, which is an airtight chamber, you’re getting the best taste and nutrient content.”
The airtight Takeya system ensures precious nutrients and flavors don’t evaporate with some of the water before the tea cools — and those nutrients are key to tea’s growth. “Over the last decade, several thousand articles have been written about the healthfulness and important phytochemicals and antioxidants that improve human health,” Goggi said, adding that the public has grown increasingly aware of these studies.
Cleansing, lower cholesterol, heart function and mental acuity are some of the natural benefits of tea drinking. Flavonoids, a compound produced by tea plants, are thought to have antioxidant properties and help neutralize free radicals. Tea also has no sodium, no fat, no carbonation and is sugar-free. It’s also calorie-free and provides hydration — and some studies have shown that tea drinking improves cardiovascular health. A Harvard study found that individuals drinking one or more cups of black tea per day have a 44 percent reduced risk for heart attack. A U.S. Department of Agriculture study showed that a low-fat diet combined with five cups of tea per day reduced LDL cholesterol by 11 percent, after three weeks. Also shown in the studies is that drinking black tea reduces blood pressure and helps blood flow after a high-fat meal, and tea also carries with it a reduced risk for rectal cancer, colon cancer and skin cancer.
Along with health benefits, tea naturally boosts cognition. While antioxidants in tea protect brain cells from free radicals, another compound found in tea, L-theanine, along with caffeine, is known to enhance attention and complex problem solving.
Still, not all tea drinkers are seeking a mental boost, and not all of them are interested in learning about tea beyond the basics. “Seventy-eight percent of consumers drink tea for the taste, and 50 percent drink it for the function,” said Patrick Tannous, President and Co-Founder of Tiesta Tea. “We take the basic functionality of the tea and educate the consumer. We aim to make tea accessible, understandable and affordable.”
Tiesta Tea’s approach is to educate the consumer about how to make the best tea, rather than about the tea’s journey from the farm to cup. On the company website, the owners drive this point home: “Does it really matter to you which farm in China produces the best green tea in February or how to correctly pronounce rooibos? (it’s ROY-bos, if you care.) That’s our job to do, not yours. We believe what matters is what your tea tastes like and what’s it’s going to do for you. We take care of the nitty-gritty details.”
Ready-to-drink tea also has made tea more available and visible to consumers. Some markets dedicate an entire shelf section to kombucha alone, increasing tea’s visibility, while other varieties of tea can be found all over stores, rather than in one single beverage area. Goggi wrote in his 2014 report that ready-to-drink tea is expected to continue rising in popularity, with annual dollar increases from 12 to 15 percent.
There are a lot of factors driving tea growth, from public knowledge of specialty tea to Starbucks buying the Teavana chain. As Millennials age, their interest in tea is expected to continue and get passed down to the next generation. This growth will keep the market growing for years to come. After all, tea is inexpensive, simple and accessible.
“It’s something anyone can do, and it’s something all people can enjoy,” said Lown. “Tea is not exclusive to a certain class; it’s something everyone can enjoy, no matter your diet, your religion, your age or your income.”
For the first time in the history of coffee, there’s a packaging that will preserve the cold-brewed beverage without refrigeration. Coffee concentrate packaged in a bag-on-valve system is shelf-stable for three years or more and comes out of the can with the same taste and aroma it had when it was freshly brewed, according to BOV Solutions Founder and CEO Paul Hertensen.
“The packaging is specifically designed for today’s cold coffee drinks,” he said. “It looks like an aerosol can, but it’s not aerosol. This is a pure, natural coffee product with nothing added. There are no preservatives. No refrigeration is required.”
BOV Solutions has partnered with the world’s largest coffee-brewing company, which is making the coffee concentrates that are packaged inside the BOV Solutions’ bag-on-valve cans. The coffee concentrate itself is enclosed inside a bag so that it’s in an oxygen-free environment and is never touched by propellants. Then the can is pressurized outside the bag, and that pressure provides the force that propels the coffee concentrate out of the can when the valve is opened. The can is made from 100 percent fully recyclable aluminum, so there’s no landfill impact, and shelf-stability tests have shown no change in the coffee after three years without refrigeration. “The flavor is still there; the aromas, still there. It’s exactly the way it was when it was put into the can,” Hertensen said.
Flavor stays the same because the sealed bag protects the coffee from the oxidation that changes the flavor of coffee as it sits in an open container. “Our coffee tastes the same from the first cup to the last cup with no changes whatsoever,” Hertensen said.
All the consumer has to do to prepare the beverage is to dispense a quarter of an ounce of the coffee concentrate into hot or cold water. “You absolutely need no equipment whatsoever. All you need is hot water or cold water or milk, whatever you use to make your coffee drink,” Hertensen said. The coffee concentrate can also be used as a flavoring ingredient for foods like ice creams or baked goods. “It has no bitterness,” Hertensen added. “All the bitterness has been removed.”
The same technology can also be used to package tea concentrates. At-home preparation for those also requires just the dispensing of a quarter of an ounce of the concentrate into a glass of ice water or a cup of hot water. “Tea is also a cold-brewed process,” Hertensen said. “We get the pure flavor of the tea.”
The technology has patents pending around the world, Hertensen says. “What we actually patented was the ability to put a coffee or tea concentrate into a bag on valve. We also patented putting the bag-on-valve into a dispensing system.”
“This is the most exciting product I’ve ever had my fingers on by far,” he added. “People are dying for us to get it onto the market.”
BOV Solutions’ profits from sales of the coffee and tea packaging will be donated to a new veteran’s organization that’s providing an outdoor recreational retreat area for disabled veterans and first responders. “It’s a good cause. There are organizations helping these veterans get mobile, but there’s no place they can go to enjoy outdoor sports that has equipment modified for them,” Hertensen said. “It’ll be totally free of charge to the veterans. This is drastically needed for those who serve and protect us and have been disabled doing so. It’s a marvelous thing because it will help them feel whole again.”
The recreational facility will also be available to firefighters, police officers and other first responders who have become disabled through the performance of their duty as public servants, Hertensen said. “It’s a great organization.”
Affinity Beverage Group, Inc., a publicly traded company, announced that it has acquired a majority interest in Village Tea Company Distribution, Inc. Village Tea, headquartered in National Harbor, Maryland, is the owner of the Village Tea Company brand of premium loose leaf teas and tea accessories. Village Tea Company sources high-quality, unique teas that are blended to create distinct flavor combinations which are packaged in a variety of creative and earth-friendly ways for wholesale and retail sales. The brand has been sold in several major retailers in North America including Vitamin Shoppe®, Whole Foods® Markets, Winners®, HomeSense®, Akins/Chamberlin® Natural Foods Markets and many other independent specialty and grocery store retailers. Village Tea Company products are also available through e-commerce retailers such as Amazon, the company’s own website, www.villageteaco.com and other online retailers. Village Tea Company also recently acquired distribution rights for Pura Organic Agave sweeteners, which will be available at select U.S. retailers in the coming weeks.
Affinity CEO Janon Costley will remain in his role as CEO of Village Tea Company Distribution, Inc., while Affinity advisory board member and Village Tea Company founder, Martin Ekechukwu will continue in his role as Brand Manager and President. “Acquiring Village Tea Company was at the forefront of our thought process when we decided to build a health and wellness lifestyle brand building and acquisition platform with Affinity Beverage Group. We have learned some important lessons over the past couple of years while trying to find the proper platform to grow Village Tea Company, so it was extremely important to us that we put the company into the best situation that would allow us to have full control of our strategic growth strategy that will enable us to maximize the tremendous potential of the brand and its distribution platform. We feel that Village Tea Company is poised for exponential growth over the course of the next several years, and Affinity gives us the best opportunity to fulfill those expectations,” Costley said.
With the increased emphasis on health and wellness in the U.S. tea market, the $6 billion global tea industry has seen exponential growth over the past five years with the ever-increasing popularity of gourmet and boutique tea brands and retail outlets accounting for nearly 35 percent of the global tea market, the Village Tea Company is properly positioned for exponential growth over the course of the next several years. Over the past year, Village Tea Company has created a platform that will enable it to increase its sales footprint in existing channels of distribution in health and wellness specialty and grocery stores and e-commerce but also to increase its presence in mainstream grocery, clubs, mass and drug store chains as well as into hospitality, food service and restaurants.
Village Tea Company is no longer just about tea, as it is also using its unique positioning in the marketplace to create a distribution platform to introduce other complementary health and wellness lifestyle brands and products. As it looks toward the future, the company will continue to seek opportunities to leverage its product development team and distribution experience as well as the resources of its trade partners to explore various brand extension opportunities into new categories such as tea accessories, K-cups, various tea based products, retail, co-branded tea infused nutritional beverages and strategic distribution opportunities.
Celestial Seasonings®, a brand of The Hain Celestial Group, Inc., has unveiled its fresh new brand look and feel–including refreshed tea packaging that highlights the brand’s heritage and a new, contemporary logo.
“We’re excited to introduce our refreshed packaging to consumers since we think the new boxes are an even better reflection of the Celestial Seasonings® goodness inside,” said Tom Arcuri, vice president of sales and marketing at Celestial Seasonings, Inc. “We kept the elements that our consumers loved from our previous boxes and built upon them to appeal to an even wider audience.”
The refreshed packaging blends many of the heritage elements for which the brand is known–including commissioned tea box art featuring iconic characters like Sleepytime® Bear–with a contemporary design. Consumers will find the same high-quality teas inside–the brand has not changed any of its recipes and continues to source its ingredients and blend its teas according to its strict “Blended With Care: From Seed to Sip” standard for purity and quality.
Celestial Seasonings maintains its strong belief in social responsibility, so its refreshed packaging will continue to feature an earth-friendly design. The brand’s cartons are still biodegradable and recyclable, and its signature tea bag omits strings, staples and individual wrappers–saving 3.5 million pounds of material from landfills every year.
The first Celestial Seasonings teas in refreshed packaging are available on store shelves now, with the full new shelf set expected to be in place by the fall. All items will also available at the Celestial Seasonings Online Store.
Aiya America has taken first place in the annual Iced Tea Competition held by the North American Tea Championship (NATC) for its Matcha to Go single serving sticks. Aiya’s Matcha to Go placed first under the instant unflavored green tea category.
The NATC Iced Tea Competition evaluates premium tea entries from all over North America, under numerous categories. Each tea is blindly evaluated by world renowned tea connoisseurs and rated using a point scale for flavor, aroma, mouth feel, brewed harmony and other characteristics.
Matcha to Go single serving sticks blend ultra-fine matcha powder with dietary fiber for a smooth, creamy, delicious and healthful beverage in just seconds. It requires no sifting or whisking, and eliminates the clumping that may be associated with other matcha tea products. Simply pour Matcha to Go into a cold water bottle and shake for a refreshing iced matcha drink, or stir into hot water for an invigorating matcha tea.
Matcha to Go contains 10 sticks in each box and retails for $18.80. To purchase Matcha to Go or to learn about all of Aiya’s offerings, visit www.aiyamatcha.com.
Matcha LOVE CULINARY MATCHA from ITO EN was named as “Best New Product-Tea as an Ingredient” at the recent World Tea Expo 2015 held in Long Beach, California. “We are greatly honored with this award as we invite more aspiring cooks to explore the purity and vitality of the entire green tea leaf,” says Rona Tison, Senior Vice President of Corporate Relations for ITO-EN. “The fresh balance of sweetness and herbaceous grassiness is a taste profile and sensation like no other.”
Fast becoming a popular ingredient for its rich umami taste and antioxidant rich benefits, Matcha LOVE’s CULINARY MATCHA is a finely milled green tea powder, traditionally used in Japanese tea ceremonies, made from premium quality whole tea leaves. Today a versatile ingredient used for baking or cooking both sweet and savory dishes is also a favorite in smoothies and super drinks.
Celebrated for its powerful EGCG tea antioxidants and Vitamin C, matcha is considered and natural energy boost. Matcha generates new layers of amplified flavors with a sweet lingering taste sensation. Bold and rich in flavor with an herbaceous finish, a little matcha goes along way. The new CULINARY MATCHA joins the Matcha LOVE’s® line of ceremonial matcha powder, teabags and convenient on-the-go Matcha drinks, available in unsweetened and sweetened. Taking a modern take on an ancient ritual, the innovative Matcha LOVE line is making its way into the urban lifestyle.
Owl’s Brew, the tea crafted for cocktails, has added a fourth flavor to its growing lineup of premium tea-based mixers. White and Vine, the brand’s first white tea-based product, expertly blends fine white tea with all-natural watermelon, pomegranate, and lemon peel, for a tart and refreshing taste. As with every Owl’s Brew variety, White and Vine is versatile and can be poured with a range of spirits, beer, wine, and champagne, to create a range of effortless craft cocktails with sophisticated taste profiles, and refreshingly modest calorie counts. White and Vine pairs ideally with tequila or gin.
White and Vine is available now on Owl’s Brew’s website and from select online retailers such as Craft & Caro, Goldbely, Food52 and Brit & Co, and will soon be found at specialty food grocers, supermarkets, home and wine and spirits retailers throughout the U.S.
“White and Vine’s white tea profile makes the perfect addition to the current Owl’s Brew line—and is a delicious base for summer cocktails,” said Jennie Ripps, Founder and CEO of Owl’s Brew. “We’re thrilled to be continuing to innovate and introducing new twists on the at-home cocktail through our crafted-for-cocktails tea blends.”
Owl’s Brew’s three original flavors include Coco-Lada, sweet with a spicy kick, rounded out by coconut and sweetened with natural agave; Pink & Black, a robust darjeeling, with a hint of hibiscus, sweetened with agave; and The Classic, English breakfast with a tart twist, sweetened with agave, with each serving 20 – 40 calories. All four flavors are available in both 8-ounce and 32-ounce sizes.
Owl’s Brew’s light flavor profile allows it to complement a wide range of spirits, and each of its flavors can be combined with multiple liquors, such as vodka, bourbon, tequila or even beer. The tea is fresh-brewed in micro-batches. Owl’s Brew is currently available at leading national retailers including BevMo!, Whole Foods, The Fresh Market, Williams-Sonoma, and West Elm.
Jade Monk is redefining the ready-to-drink tea category with its first-to-market line of organic, cold-brewed matcha green teas. Now available in five regions of Whole Foods Market, Jade Monk’s new line of premium matcha tea is a delicious, authentic offering of some of the finest tea to ever hit the mainstream beverage set.
Utilizing a cold-brewing method, no heat is ever introduced during the production of Jade Monk’s USDA Organic and Non-GMO verified matcha beverages. To extend shelf life of the perishable tea, Jade Monk uses high-pressure-processing, a new method of cold pasteurization that applies high pressure (over 30 tons worth) to inactivate bacteria and other unwanted hazards without the need for high temperature pasteurization, which can be detrimental to matcha’s delicate flavor and whole food nutrients.
“Matcha green tea is unlike any other tea on Earth,” said Mike Fulkerson, Chief Commercial Officer of Jade Monk, LLC. “Because matcha is made by delicately grinding the entire tea leaf into a fine powder, all of those whole food nutrients and health benefits that regular tea bags carry away stay in the beverage and are consumed when you drink Jade Monk matcha.”
Although matcha may seem relatively new to the US, it has been consumed for well over 800 years throughout the Far East. For nearly a millennium, the Japanese have been honing and refining the art of matcha production, which has culminated in a distinct green tea that contains unrivaled flavor, nutritional properties and health benefits. Studies have shown that just one serving of matcha green tea contains the antioxidant equivalent of over 10 servings of traditional steeped green tea. Matcha drinkers also benefit from the whole food trace minerals and amino acids that the tea contains.
The Jade Monk ready-to-drink beverage line consists of four initial flavors: Unsweetened, Slightly Sweet, Mint + Honey, and Matcha Cleanse. The line can currently be found in the refrigerated beverage sets of Whole Foods Market stores in the Pacific Northwest, Southern Pacific, Florida, South and Mid-Atlantic regions.
World Tea Expo (#WorldTeaExpo or #WTE15) is hosting World Tea Acaemy LIVE! just before the upcoming event, which takes place May 6 – 8, 2015 in Long Beach, California at the Long Beach Convention Center. World Tea Academy (WTA) is the leading online tea education and certification program, and World Tea Academy LIVE! is an in-person “taste” of what the online program has to offer. Advance registration and information is at WorldTeaExpo.com.
Those who register for World Tea Academy LIVE!, May 4 from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., will take the first step towards achieving industry certification. Participants will fulfill a requisite class: “Essentials of Camellia Sinensis,” presented by instructors Dan Robertson, founder and owner of The Tea House & World Tours, and Babette Donaldson, author of “The Everything Healthy Tea Book.” This class introduces the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, and the three factors that make it possible for this one plant to be the source of hundreds of kinds of teas. It also explores the botany of the plant, including the history, varieties, cultivars and cellular chemistry. The class continues with the six stages of tea processing and an overview of the six types of tea that come from this single amazing plant. The session includes an introduction to professional cupping and the sensory evaluation of tea.
With the World Tea Academy LIVE! class completed, students can continue their certification journey online through World Tea Academy, from the organizers of World Tea Expo and the North American Tea Championship. WTA is a digital-based learning platform that incorporates robust features and creates classroom-like environments for student-to-student interaction. The Academy offers the core WTA Certified Tea Specialist program, as well as higher-level accreditation, including: WTA Certified Tea Professional, WTA Certified Tea Sommelier and WTA Certified Tea Health Expert.
World Tea Academy classes are filled with rich content, videos, key learning points, group discussions and downloadable course materials. The curriculum covers a variety of educational topics, including: Tea Enhancements and Grading Systems; Tea Terroir; Tea Cupping; Quality Systems for Product Management; Presentation and Advanced Brewing Techniques; Tea Sommelier Essentials; Advanced Herbal Teas; Health Benefits of Tea; and Blending, Flavoring and Scenting, among others.
Each week, new educational content is unlocked for enrolled students. Week One and Week Two of the Core-level program provide key learning materials and content, and Week Three focuses on professionally cupping teas. Students are shipped teas and a Cupping Lab Starter Kit that includes cupping sets, digital scale, thermometer and timer. Teas frequently sent to students for cupping exercises contain North American Tea Championship winning teas. Higher level class formats vary within each three-week session.
The Academy receives support and oversight from its Strategic Technical Advisers, all recognizable luminaries. And since launching in 2013, the Academy has spanned 25 countries, six continents, six Canadian provinces and 32 states in America.
To register for World Tea Academy LIVE! at World Tea Expo, visit WorldTeaExpo.com. Or learn more about the programs and online class schedules at WorldTeaAcademy.com. Call 702.789.1839 or email info@WorldTeaAcademy.com with questions.
The North American Tea Championship – the only independent and professionally-judged tea competition in North America – named the 16 best, premium hot teas from the fall 2014 harvest. The evaluation was held Feb. 26-27 in Las Vegas, Nevada, and all of the high-quality winning teas are commercially available in the marketplace.
Companies that took home an esteemed first-place award include: The Tea Kings; Glenburn Tea Direct; Mountain Tea Company; Garden to Cup Organics; Nepali Tea Traders; Chico Chai; Florapharm Tea-USA LP; and La Creme Coffee & Tea.
A complete list of first, second and third-place winners of the North American Tea Championship is available at teachampionship.com.
North American Tea Championship first-place winners include:
(Company/Website, Name of the Winning Tea, Category)
Honorees will be featured at the North American Tea Championship Winners Tasting Circle at World Tea Expo (WorldTeaExpo.com),May 6 – 8, 2015 at the Long Beach Convention Center, Long Beach, California.
The next North American Tea Championship will be held in June 2015 for an evaluation of iced teas. To inquire about entering the competition, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.