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Avoiding the mists of a glorious past.

For many years, the U.K. Tea Council has been tracking developments in the the overall drinks market in England with the National Drinks Survey. The Tea Council, through this survey, is now in the unique position of being the leading authority on the who, what, when, why, and where in the consumption of drinks in the U.K.

The survey, which measures all drinks consumed except water on a units-drank-per-day basis, has found that total fluids drunk over the last 10 years has not varied significantly. In 1992, people drank 8.26 units a day, versus 8.24 in 1981, while the population grew 2.1% over the same period.

Tea: 43% of everything drank

Alcohol continues to decline in the U.K., a worldwide trend observed in other developed countries, losing 2.3% in units apparently to soft drinks which have grown since 1991 by 6.1%. The increase in soft drinks is mainly in carbonated drinks (cola) and fruit juices, which grew by 10.3% and 7% respectively. Together these two groups account for 42.3% of all soft drinks. Coffee is on the rise after a 2.3% fall in 1991, growing to 1.74 units per person per day in 1992. This, though, is down from the peak of 1.82 units reached in 1985.

Tea still accounts for 43% of everything the British drink, excluding tap water. Some 170 million units of tea are drunk by 80% of the population averaging 3.53 cups per person per day. In the hot drinks sector, tea accounts for a 62.8% share. Hot tea therefore accounts for 68% of everything the British drink.

Instant tea accounts for only 2.2% of all brewed tea, but this is over double its 1% share in 1991. Still, at a 2.1% share, this amounts to 4 million cups of instant tea a day, and the industry is reportedly keeping an eye toward further developments and opportunities in this sector.

The use of teabags, on a 10-year growth curve, stalled in 1992, slipping to 84.1% from a peak of 84.8% in 1991. The loose-leaf share of tea has remained steady at 13% for the past few years, no doubt held up in large part due to the steady growth in specialty teas - 33% of which are in loose leaf form.

Specialty tea: a redundant term?

With some difficulty, the English tea trade is getting used to the term "specialty tea." Of course, everyone in the British tea trade believes that tea sold on the English market is "special," arguing that the vast majority of tea in England is brewed from complex blends, sometimes containing as many as 25 different teas.

Semantic arguments aside, "specialty teas" - defined by the Tea Council as "tea that has been blended for a particular person, such as Earl Grey, or a blend of teas that have been especially prepared for consumption at a certain time of day" - are becoming more popular. Over 6,000 metric tons of the so-defined tea was sold in 1992. The key, 25-to-34 year-old consuming group has developed a keen interest in these teas. A recent survey concludes that 45% of this group is aware of Earl Grey and 22% is aware of Darjeeling.

Tea, the English national drink, remains an outstanding value for money. The average cost of a brewed cup is only 2 pence (about 3 U.S. cents), including milk which accounts for half this cost. Adding the cost of sugar, which only 30% of the English add to their tea today, the cost per week on average is 47 pence (61 U.S. cents) per week for tea. This compares favorably with other consumer items, such as the 210 pence spent on newspapers by the average British citizen. This low cost is further underlined by the fact that U.K. tea blends consist of only medium- to high-quality teas.

Why not more tea out of home?

The Tea Council reports tremendous strides in the quality of tea out-of-home establishments - the catering trade. Through the Tea Council's Catering Tea Grading Scheme, it was determined that 84% of the tea used in catered establishments is the same quality as that used in homes throughout England.

But, the Tea Council believes that the amount of tea drank out of home should be much higher that the 7.2 billion cups a year. The Council cites the example that although 21% of all drinks are consumed out the home, only 9% of that is tea. A Tea Council survey finds that some 40% of all restaurants do not have tea on their menus, and that only 30% of establishments offering specialty teas list them on the menu.

Already mentioned is the Catering Tea Grading Scheme which gives rankings of tea served out of home based upon a three-star system with a single Quality Award. Therefore, marginal quality teas are dropped altogether and caterers wishing to serve tea which bear the award must choose from amongst those acceptable to this official program.

In national food and drink guides, such as the Ashley Courtenay or Egon Ronay guides, leading inspectors now complete agreed-upon questionnaires of the establishments they visit. This program, which was formally agreed to this year, will help the ongoing ranking of first and executive class establishments.

Tea at crossroad

All in all, the Tea Council 1992 report shows tea approaching a crossroads in the U.K., and by extrapolation, the rest of the world. As reported in the Catering Tea Report, 63% of the hotels and restaurants in England that do not serve tea, say they don't because there is no demand.

A main strategy of the Tea Council today is a re-examination of tea as a part of the worldwide trend toward healthier lifestyles. "Specifically, we set out to position tea as part of today's healthy lifestyle," said P.G.W. Davis, chairman of the Tea Council. "Presenting it as part of today's healthy lifestyle ... a completely natural product, calorie and additive free."

The Healthy Drinks Project, established in 1986, has made the Tea Council the leading authority on healthy drinking. The project keeps a database on the changing attitudes to healthy drinking and provides many opportunities to explain tea's role. "The research into finding positive health benefits in tea has the complete support of the U.K. tea industry ... as well as our friends in the U.S. and Canada tea trades"

"The opportunities for tea are very exciting over the next few years," said Davis. "But, we must be extremely progressive to ensure that we capitalize on these opportunities or we will gradually fade into the mists of a glorious past."

Second British Tea

Convention a success

On May 17, 1993 Britain hosted the Second British Tea Convention in the Jersey Islands. Around 300 delegates from 30 countries converged on St. Helier.

"Virtually every tea producing country was represented," said Anita Crocker, a spokesperson for the U.K. Tea Council. "Apparently this was the largest tea convention ever held in the world."

On the first day were discussions of supply and demand and new markets, with India being highlighted. Other highlights included discussion on the opening of the Eastern bloc countries, Scandinavians becoming more aware of tea and improvement of tea consumption in America.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:tea drinking in the United Kingdom
Author:John, Glenn A.
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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