Tea is having a moment. The steaming beverage usually associated with doilies and grandmothers has been steadily climbing in popularity among health-conscious millennials, riding the publicity wave of other trendy beverages such as craft beer and boutique coffee.
According to the Tea Association of America, United States tea sales rose 4-5% in 2015, and are projected to increase by 5-6% in coming years. However, while the entire tea industry appears to be booming, specialty teas have become especially popular. Sales of specialty teas rose 8-10% in 2015, outpacing expectations and indicating a shift in consumer preferences.
Specialty teas are notable for their multicultural origins and numerous health benefits. Unlike coffee or alcohol, the mental and physiological benefits of tea are largely uncontested, making it especially appealing in our health-driven culture.
Some of the most popular specialty teas are turmeric and matcha. Turmeric is a ginger-like spice popular in Southeast Asia that experts suggest is both energizing and anti-inflammatory. Turmeric can be found in everything from tea to cocktails, and is arguably the most popular specialty tea ingredient. If turmeric has any competition, however, it comes in the form of matcha. The trendy green tea powder has infiltrated nearly every form of beverage, from Starbucks lattes to plain tea bags, and provides a clean energy alternative to caffeine.
While turmeric and matcha are fairly common, some tea companies, like Milwaukee-based Rishi, are working to develop less mainstream specialty teas. Jeffrey Champeau, Rishi’s brand marketing manager, reports that the company is currently experimenting with mushroom-based “nourishing tonics” that can be simultaneously brewed like normal tea and used to make soup. This innovation comes on the tail of their release of an Amari-inspired tea this winter, which includes such fascinating ingredients as saffron and cardamom.
Whether or not you’re ready to take the plunge on mushroom tea, however, there's no question that your grandmother’s favorite hot beverage is having a moment. With so many potential health benefits and delicious flavors, what’s not to love?