Consumers Search for New Teas in Australia as a Result of COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many consumers in Australia (and around the world) began to search for teas as a healthy option. Photo by: AntonioGuillem / Bigstock.com.

A Look at How the Pandemic Has Impacted Tea Consumption in Australia

By Sharyn Johnston, Australian Tea Masters

What’s changed in 2020 in relation to tea in Australia? After the start of a relatively normal year, things shifted dramatically with the beginning of COVID-19 and our lockdowns in Australia.

Not only did people begin to search the Internet for teas as a healthy option, but they also began to search for tea courses. The types of tea typically requested changed on our online platform, too. We are traditionally a black tea-drinking country, and Australia altered its search habits and drinking habits from black teas to wellness teas and functional teas – especially the immune-boosting teas and relaxation and sleep teas. Sales in green tea increased as well, and there was a strange movement to purple tea and yellow teas, maybe because they were more unusual.

Our Tea101 program proved extremely popular during the pandemic. And, of course, with not being able to hold regular face-to-face classes, there was a dramatic surge in interest in online tea education.

Overall, we were one of the lucky businesses in Australia, as our business increased three-fold over 2020. Managing this was quite difficult with the restrictions in place. We were actually listed under the “food manufacturing” category, so we were allowed to continue. We managed this situation but lived in a “bubble” of home-to-work, work-to-home, so we could still manufacture and supply tea.

One of the biggest areas of growth was private label blend development with many people wanting to start their own tea business. This is an area that requires patience and mentoring because there are many tea novices who want to begin a tea journey with their own tea label.

In terms of ingredients, we saw that many people wanted new tea blends, and they either wanted no flavors added or only natural flavouring. There was also an increase in demand for new ingredients to be added to tea, such a nutraceutical.

Some of the challenges we faced this year included ingredient sourcing, as supply lines have been heavily impacted. This caused us to have to carry a lot more stock than normal and to take risks with buying extra large quantities of individual ingredients, as well as tea. We usually carry more than 280 different herbal ingredients and trying to manage this situation was very difficult with ongoing juggling of ingredients to help keep our clients happy.

The other challenge was working in a more strictly sanitized environment and taking care of any chance of cross contamination and safety of staff.

Specialty tea was another good area of growth with people having the time to search the Internet for new and different teas. I think for many people there was a realization that there’s a lot more to tea than black tea or green tea. In fact, they realized there’s a whole new tea world out there.

On the whole, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a difficult time, but it’s helped to grow interest in tea and herbals. People have had time to learn more about tea and buy online; so for us, we look at this in a positive light for the global tea community.


Sharyn Johnston is the CEO of Australian Tea Masters and Australian Tea Masters Wholesale and Blending companies. She founded Australian Tea Masters (ATM) in 2011, with branches in Australia, Singapore, Indonesia and recently Korea. ATM is a 100 percent Australian-owned company and encompasses education, consultancy and manufacturing. Johnston is also the head international judge for Tea Masters Cup. She works with market leaders globally to create the latest blends for their markets and also educates and consults on tea blending in China. Australian Tea Masters offers private label manufacturing to different sectors of the market, including brewers, spas and wellness companies, and it has a large base of clients within Australia as well as overseas. ATM currently produce and exports more than 12 tons of tea and wellness blends. Johnston also educates in modern tea mastery, tea blending and tea sommelier training, providing training to various sectors of the hospitality industry – both locally and internationally. Visit AustralianTeaMasters.com.au to learn more.