tea trends 2020

Tea Trends in 2020

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What changes can we expect to see in the world of tea in 2020? In this article, I’m going to detail the main trends in tea that I can foresee in 2020. They range from the impact of the coronavirus on the Chinese workforce to the continued role of tea in the wellbeing trend. Read on to find out more.

In this article:

Impact of coronavirus on Chinese tea

While the virus will not affect the tea plants directly, it could foreseeably have a negative impact on the workforce. Not only is there the possibility that the virus will render some of the labour force too ill to work during the crucial Spring period, but there is also a possibility that tea-producing regions might be quarantined or ports closed.

At this point (10th February 2020) the main tea producing regions have not been affected but my favourite Chinese tea site, TeaVivre, is only shipping products it already has in stock in its warehouse in the USA and has stopped delivery from their Xiamen warehouse in China to ensure safety. There is also the very real prospect that the image of Chinese tea, along with many other Chinese products will be damaged, at least in the short term, by the virus. At this stage, it is very much a case of “wait and see”.

The continued rise of herbal, spice and fruit teas

There is a definite trend away from traditional tea based on the leaves of Camellia sinensis to a variety of herbal, spice and fruit products in tea. A recent article by a major British news outlet (inews) ran a recent article quoting the chief executive of Unilever which owns industry giants PG Tips and Lipton Tea as saying “drinkers of black tea were getting older and consuming less and starting to fall over“, that is, facing extinction. The UK’s tea market has fallen more than 9 per cent in the ten years as coffee and herbal tea consumption has risen.

Many of the big producers, such as Twinings, have already tapped into this trend by offering fruit infusions, infusions intended for cold brewing and other taste innovations. Consumer palates are becoming more sophisticated and people expect better flavour and quality than in the past.

Growing demand for functional and wellbeing teas

Tea drinking to address specific health concerns will continue to grow in 2020. In recent years, consumers have been increasingly looking to Chinese medicine and Indian Ayurveda for inspiration in terms of tea ingredients and that trend will grow as people look for non-prescription solutions to mental health problems such as stress, depression and anxiety as well as physical concerns such as weight loss, diabetes and high blood pressure.

While well-known herbal solutions for sleep and anxiety reduction like peppermint, chamomile and hibiscus and 2019’s big trend towards turmeric tea will continue to rise in popularity, less well-known herbs and spices such as tulsi, ashwagandha and rhodiola will find increasing popularity among consumers.

There are very many small tea producers who have been offering functional teas for some time and some of the big tea producers are starting to catch up with this trend and are offering wellbeing ranges. Twinings is a good example with its new “Superblends” range which combine green tea, botanicals and fruit flavours with added vitamins and minerals. Tetley has similarly produced a range called “Super Tea” based on fruits and herbs with added vitamins and minerals.

CBD tea will become much more popular (at least where it is legal)

CBD is derived from industrial hemp and, unlike cannabis itself, as long as it has a very low (usually less than 0.3%) concentration of the psychoactive compound THC, is legal in many parts of the world. Having said that, the legal status of CBD is currently very different depending on where you live.

It is now legal in the USA with the exception of the states of Idaho, Nebraska and South Dakota, and here in the United Kingdom, but remains illegal or only available on prescription in much of Europe, in Russia, and in most countries of Africa, South America and the Middle East – it still carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. The situation in Canada is rather confusing, where cannabis is fully legal but CBD is technically illegal. In Australia and New Zealand, it is currently only legal for medicinal purposes. Up-to-date information can be found on The Extract website.

In those regions where CBD is legal, it is being touted as a treatment for everything from anxiety to acne, from inflammation to sleep apnoea, with very limited scientific data that it actually works for any of these conditions. However, like many so-called health products, CBD is a rising trend that people are keen to try, and are increasingly looking for ways to consume it other than the oil itself so this market is likely to rise dramatically in 2020.

Changes to packaging materials

The mass media reported widely last Autumn the discovery that tea bags contain microplastic and that prompted me to put together my list of plastic-free tea bags, which I am keeping as up to date as possible. Since I first wrote that article in September 2019, many more producers, including the huge PG Tips, have announced that their tea bags are now plastic-free, and we have seen loose tea’s popularity start to rise are many years of losing out to tea bags.

Many companies large and small are racing to remove plastic from all parts of the tea production process, including the packaging material for loose leaf teas. This increased concern for the environmental impact of tea will continue in 2020.

Increasing import tariffs, climate change and other political influences

Sparked by trade disagreements between the USA and China, the last couple of years have seen increasing import tariffs being imposed by many countries. While it is too early to know whether this will have any impact on overall tea consumption, these changes, along with environmental concerns about food miles, are encouraging more and more people to grow tea in their own country. In the UK we now have a number of options for purchasing home-grown tea and that number is set to rise, as is the realisation that it is possible to grow tea at home in our own gardens, at least on a small scale.

In the USA, the introduction by the  Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of its Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2016 started to hurt Chinese imports, particularly of speciality tea from 2018. Then in September 2019, the US Trade Representative (USTR) put a duty of 15% on tea imports in September 2019. However, it announced at the end of January 2019 that from mid-February that would be lowered back down to 7.5%.

There were many reports throughout 2019 of the impact climate change is having on tea production, and scientific efforts to overcome this and help tea farmers plan for an uncertain future. It was a particularly bad year for Pu-erh tea, as drought-hit Yunnan province,

In conclusion

The world is changing in many ways: the climate, the political landscape, our health and wellbeing, and all of these have an impact on our tea choices.

Featured image with thanks to Image by carevkin from Pixabay
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13 thoughts on “Tea Trends in 2020”

  1.  You have thoroughly covered the various things that might impact both the production and distribution of tea.  I have been encouraged by my kids to try a few of what they call “speciality” teas which are what you refer to as “functional”.  They have pointed out calming teas that help on sleep.  I am curious about the taste of the CBD product.  I am sure its legal in California, but I can’t image the it would have a good taste.  Thank you for this article.  I will watch tea with interest both to see if it is affected by things going on in the world and to discover if there are new teas that I should try.

    Reply
  2. Hello, I really want to first appreciate your effort in putting this great website together and writing this article. I recently came across an article with so many variations of tea and it is true that the conditions of the weather and climate affects our choices of tea. I can tell that this is a well researched article and I have benefited from it 

    Reply
  3. Tea is very important for a lot of people myself included and as you mentioned, the demand will only soar with even more people becoming aware of the impact it has on health and well-being. As for the Chinese tea, I think you’re right about their image getting soiled by this coronavirus but hopefully, the effects wouldn’t be long term.

    Reply
    • Hi Leo, I agree, any negative image will only be temporary and as the entire world is dependent upon Chinese exports of consumer products, especially our electronics, it may have little real impact in the long term.

      Reply
  4. I really enjoyed your article on the upcoming tea trends.  Who would have thought.  I am a herbal tea drinker, not a real fan of the fruity teas, but really love chia tea and peppermint.  I try and use tea leaves as much as possible.  I had no idea that their was plastic in the tea bags and now I am glad that I prefer the loose tea leaves as opposed to the bagged.

    I had never thought about the impact that the Coronavirus would have on tea.  I guess it could affect all commodities down the road.  It is very unfortunate if it comes to this.  China is such a big import of tea.

    Thank you for sharing this article, I am sure that a lot of individuals will learn a lot about the trends of 2020 in the tea industry.  I am interested in trying CBD tea, not sure if it is available in Canada, but I am going to look into it.  If you know whether it is, could you please let me know and possibly where.

    Reply
    • Hi Wanda, Canada is in a bit of a strange position at the moment: it’s one of a very small number of countries which have legalised cannabis, but CBD is still technically illegal. As most of the states of the USA have legalised CBD, it’s probably going to be easiest for you to purchase it from there. 

      Reply
  5. What tea can help to burn body fat? 

    i really like the idea of herbal tea and all, I’ve read several articles of it being recommended for use to keep fit and healthy. 

    I find help in this article about helping me to become a merchant in the tea business?

    How can CBD tea be introduced in countries in parts of Africa where it is not legal? 

    Reply
    • Hi Samikingss, thanks for commenting. I am sceptical about claims that tea can burn body fat because there is no good scientific evidence to back that up. However, switching from dairy based drinks, or drinks full of sugar, to any kind of non-dairy, sugar free product will help weight loss. In order for CBD tea to be introduced in a country is up to the government of the country to pass laws which legalize it. Some countries see it as “cannabis” and therefore outlaw it completely, others allow it with a doctor’s prescription and others, such as the UK have passed laws in the past couple of years to allow legal sale of CBD products as long as they contain no or almost no THC.

      Reply

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