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"Designer Tea" Revisited

April 23, 2011

Tea is in the news again this week, but not just any tea. Now it’s being called “designer tea”. Yesterday our news item focused on the development of tea salons and whether tea might catch up to coffee in popularity. Today’s article reflects on Chris Whitworth’s discussion of the “new tea” from a New Zealander’s perspective. An Auckland restaurateur is quoted as saying that teabags are out, and “real tea” and herbal and fruit infusions are on their way in, as tea becomes as “discerning” as espresso. He predicts that not too far in the future, “real tea”, brewed in the new brewers without the bag, will become the standard and everything else will be below standard. To accommodate the increased interest in and demand for teas, supermarkets are expanding their tea sections and carrying many more varieties. What’s driving the sudden growth of interest in teas in New Zealand? Partly it’s the whole ambiance of sipping tea in classy surroundings while visiting with friends. It’s also a function of the interest in antiques and the classic beautifully decorated China tea cups. If you enjoy and collect them, they might as well be used for the purpose for which they were made – sipping tea. Another reason is the emphasis on health and the recent marketing of green teas for a variety of health benefits. As New Zealand is tied to Great Britain, some suggest the return to tea as a social experience might be linked to the upcoming wedding in the royal family. Weddings always seen to recall traditions and the British High Tea is one which has never totally gone out of style. At the end of the article, the author does mention that all of this interest is on the part of women, as men still haven’t discovered designer tea. Of course, it’s probably correct to say that men will not be that attracted to sitting in a quaint and elegant tea room, when they can have their sports bar and more masculine coffee shop next door. It’s possible it could be seen as a less distracting location for discussing business deals than the coffee shop or the bar, so there might be a place for the tea salon in the masculine world. The article asked “Is designer tea the new coffee?” It seems just a few days ago that we were hearing that coffee is the new tea. Maybe the two most popular hot beverages are destined to play an eternal game of tug-of-war, vying for that ever-so-coveted title of top brew. Whichever is on top, it does seem apparent that tea is riding a wave of its own that might just ebb and flow with coffee’s wave.

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