Is tea time changing?

Alarming statistics that were released in August showed that those in Great Britain are drinking 22 percent less tea than five years ago.

The stereotypical British afternoon snack of tea and scones is threatened, with the study by Mintel saying consumers are preferring other interesting hot drinks on the market.

Combined with this is the increase in sales at Costa, a coffee franchise in the UK.

In 2014 the chain added 76 stores, meaning there are nearly 2000 Costa stores across the Great Britain.

Costa offers beverages including its “speciality drinks” like gingerbread and caramel lattes.

The coffee chain does have green and mint tea as part of its range.

While sales of black tea have reduced by 17.5 percent in the past two years, herbal teas have been on the increase.

Maybe this is because people are looking for healthy alternatives to a cup of tea in the afternoon which is commonly enjoyed with a biscuit. Perhaps a McVitie’s chocolate coated digestive or two?

Lord knows that when I studied in England they were a staple in the cupboard; and on the shopping list because they were eaten so quickly.

The top shelf of the cupboard in my flat was solely reserved for boxes of tea. English breakfast for the morning, peppermint for the afternoon and Earl Grey to relax with after dinner.

Although there are many brands of tea on the shelves in Great Britain, the market is dominated by Tetley and PG Tips.

Bettys and Taylors produces Yorkshire Tea which is famous worldwide.

And this brand is trying to keep alive tea’s traditional association with etiquette and refinement alive.

In 2013 it became a sponsor of English cricket team.

The marketing manager of Bettys and Tailors, Simon Eyles, told The Marketing Magazine the traditions of the “gentleman’s game” paired well with advertising tea.

“The inspiration behind cricket is that it is a game that stops for tea, it’s the only sport that has with a break for taking tea. It’s a great tradition and it’s a very English thing to do,” Eyles said.

Green tea and herbal teas are growing in popularity, but Eyles says Yorkshire tea will be sticking to specialising in traditional black tea. However he says the market for green tea is out there and may be explored using other Bettys and Tailors brands.

Personally I don’t often find myself sipping a cup of tea as my body sticks to the leather couch while I watch the summer of cricket. But then again when the final test of the Ashes in England saw temperatures of 22–27 degrees celsius, the English probably don’t have the same problem.

Perhaps surprisingly England doesn’t top the list as the world’s top tea drinking nation.

Instead each person in Turkey drinks more than double the amount of those in the UK.

But in both nations black tea is the preferred option, although in Turkey it’s brewed black, and drunken black. Milk is a no-no.

The addition of milk to black tea in England has, unsurprisingly, got an association with class system.

One theory says the amount of milk added reflects the quality of the china used to serve the hot drink in. Cheaper china cracked under heat and therefore more milk was added to cool down the liquid before pouring. Others say milk diluted the tea so the black leaves did not stain the china cups.

Also used to distinguish between classes, another theory says that milk used to be cheaper than tea therefore those in the lower class would fill their cups up with milk, adding only a dash of the expensive tea leaves. The upper class would do the opposite.

In my experience the want to add milk to tea purely comes from the type of tea a person is used to drinking.

I studied in England where I lived with Europeans and Americans. When the Germans decided it was time for tea there was never any milk involved. But this was because options included peach and lemon tea or mixed berry. As someone who has been drinking black tea (with milk) all my life, the warm, fruity flavour just didn’t sit well with me.

But when it was my turn to brew, instinctively the Germans didn’t want any milk in their tea, even if it was black.

The Americans I lived with weren’t too keen on their tea, explaining that ice tea was more popular than the warm kind. Although the Washington Post reports that American’s drink 20 percent more tea than they did in 2000, 85 percent of tea is still best served cold in the States.

This may reveal why one American friend had to ask what an electric kettle was.

“ It boils water,” an Australian explained. “But just water. You can’t heat up soup, or boil an egg,” she went on to say.

“A water boiler,” is what he continued to call it for the rest of semester.

In the end, it doesn’t matter whether you choose to drink tea black or white, or if you choose a fruity or herbal concoction of it. It doesn’t even matter if you get water from a “water boiler” or use a pot on the stove. The best thing about tea is the feeling of the hot liquid warming your throat and the knowledge that all of life’s problems can be solved over a cup of Earl Grey.

The amount of tea consumed in the UK may be changing due to the fashionable nature of hanging out in coffee shops, but there’s only so much time that will pass before people come back to the realisation tea is the greatest hot beverage available.

After all, no one ever said “keep calm, we’ll sort this out over a latte.”