Topline Trends Tuesday: Is tea cooling down?

November 17, 2009


Curious about what’s happening with the tea trend? So am I. So, I asked tea aficionado and graphic design expert Adrian Doran to attend a tea event in Toronto and report back to us.

His findings are interesting. While reports show that consumers are as curious as ever about the health benefits of tea, it seems that food service professionals still haven’t realized how to incorporate tea successfully into their commercial concepts:

Tea Report 2009


By Adrian Doran

Ever consulted a wine sommelier at your favourite restaurant? What about their tea sommelier? Do they even have one? More importantly, ever wondered why a meal of exceptional quality and service ends with a tea bag?

At the recent launch of Jeff Fuchs book The Ancient Tea Horse Road, Bill Kamula, instructor at George Brown College Chef School and Louise Roberge, President of the Tea Association of Canada, spoke about the traditions of tea and it’s future – the first batch of graduates from the College’s Tea Sommelier course.

“Tea is where wine was 20 years ago” said Roberge. “Then it was, red or white? Now, we’re aware of region, vintage, so on.” She believes the course will produce the generation of food service professionals that will lead the education of the public.

The tea industry seems to be waiting for a breakthrough. Tea consumption has grown hugely but it’s coming from far behind. A tea-equivalent of Starbucks isn’t even on the horizon and attempts to promote new tea drinks and introduce new customers to classic varieties can feel gimmicky – milk-infused oolong, anyone? There’s even some resistance from the foodservice industry – wine sommeliers seem curious enough about tea to expand their knowledge but not enough to fully commit to a 44 week course.

Kamula admits that the first dozen graduates included few foodservice professionals. “Some are from the distribution side, some are buyers. We had one lady who plans to open a bed-and-breakfast, with afternoon tea, even some Starbucks middle-management but few who plan to go into the restaurant industry.” So, if the market isn’t knowledgeable enough to drive the decisions about tea, it’s going to take a while.

At the end of an exceptional restaurant meal, do you even want to decide between early and late harvest oolongs or are you happy with a bag of Tetley’s?

Tea kettles: No longer only in Canada

January 28, 2009

electric-teakettlesWhen I started working in the test kitchen of Canadian Living magazine in the early nineties, I remember being surprised to learn that tea kettles, although common kitchen items in Canada, were relatively scarce is US kitchens. The rationale at the time was that Americans were more likely to drink coffee than tea so they didn’t give up counter space to an appliance they would use only rarely.

According to this poll and lengthy list of responses in popular New York City blog thekitchn, it looks like tea kettles are now popular on both sides of the border.

What about you? Do you plug in a kettle or put one on the stove top when you need a cuppa? And, are your current kettle habits new or rooted in long standing practice?

Edited to add:  I just saw this post on Not Martha which features a supremo kettle that has temperature settings for different kinds of hot drinks. So, if a kettle is on your shopping list, you might want to check this baby out!

Chocolate and tea

August 21, 2008

Unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere in the desert where it’s too hot to want to drink tea or to store chocolate in its solid form, it won’t be news to you that chocolate and tea are hot trends. In the last two years literally hundreds of new products in both categories have been launched.

In fact, as I was compiling items for my editor at Canadian House and Home to consider for the November and December 2008 food news pages assigned to me, I was almost playing eenie-meenie-minie-mo to choose between all the tea and chocolate options.

So, when I got a packet containing samples of Chocolatea, a product line that combines 100% organic leaf teas with good quality Belgian (but oddly not organic) chocolate, I wasn’t terribly excited. I admired the pretty packaging and colourful press materials and set the sample bars aside.

Truthfully, I was skeptical about how a delicate flavour like white tea could stand up to a dominant force like bittersweet chocolate. I’d been down this road before with Dolfin’s massala chai and chocolate bar and hadn’t really loved the texture or found that the tea made the chocolate more delicious than it would have been on its own.

So, when I got a note from my blogger pal Cheryl Sternman Rule who writes 5 Second Rule saying that she had just eaten all of her samples in one sitting, I took notice and cracked open the very dark chocolate and white tea bar. Even as I was pulling back the foil, I was still skeptical. But as the chocolate melted smoothly on my tongue, I was wonderfully surprised to taste both tea and chocolate in balance. Since then I’ve tried several other flavours. The wild raspberry tea and dark chocolate is particularly lovely with a nice fruity finish.

What do you think of chocolate and tea? Are they the next cookies and milk or just a fad? I urge you to tell me your thoughts below and to read Cheryl’s post about Chocolatea so that you can experience her impressions first hand.

Stick tea and honey drops

July 22, 2008

Seems like we can’t get enough tea this week… up today: Stick tea and honey drops. If you aspire to being the trendiest tea granny on the block, these two new products should be on your shopping list.

• These ingenious stick shaped tea bags have an architectural look that will appeal to modern design buffs. But they aren’t just pretty; anyone who likes to make tea by the cup will be a fan of how easily these infusers can be removed from your cuppa. Best news yet: its darn fine tasting tea, too!

• Love a little dab of natural sweetness in your tea but hate to handle a sticky jar of honey? Honibe Drops are an award winning pure honey product from PEI. Because the honey is concentrated to a solid form, all the mess of enjoying honey is eliminated. What a great way to take the sting out of adding a bit of sweetness to your day.

How do you enjoy your tea? Are you a milk purist or dare to dribble in a little coffee cream?