Tea Product Trends from 2018

Matcha, kombucha, boba tea and cheese tea are trends that showed strong gains in the tea market 2018.


Photo by Elizabeth Dobos
The love of matcha shows no slowing down, as Ito En, Sugimoto America and Aoi Tea Co. were just a few of the companies that debuted new matcha-based products in 2018. The companies presented the matcha in various formats, such as ready-to drink, large bags for food service, and small tins for home preparation. The addition of flavors such as cucumber and mint, hibiscus, and coconut milk is the common thread among the companies’ new matcha products. The companies added flavors to make matcha more appealing to consumers who are unfamiliar with matcha, thereby further broadening the market reach of this healthy stone ground tea.


KombuchaKon Tasting Bar
Kombucha, a probiotic-packed fermented tea that has been consumed in Asia for thousands of years, has become much more prominent in the Western beverage market in recent years. Kombucha’s presence is now commonplace in both natural and mainstream grocery stores and cafes. The Fifth Annual KombuchaKon conference took place Feb. 10-11 at the Long Beach Convention Center, where 35 vendors attended with the focus of brewing kombucha and putting it on supermarket shelves, further bolstering kombucha’s market penetration. Many companies launched new kombucha flavors throughout 2018, including GT’s Living Foods, Mobtown Fermentation, Target, Health-Ade, Ekorce Kombucha, Humm Kombucha, Wild Tonic and more. Their creative flavors range from Jalapeno-Kiwi-Cucumber to Raspberry Hops and Ginger Juniper.

Boba Tea

Iced bubble tea with tapioca pearls. (Photo/Thinkstock)
Originally from Taiwan, boba tea – also called bubble tea and milk tea – has descended upon the United States tea market. The concoction of green or black tea, milk and fruit flavors topped with tapioca balls  is now available in boba cafes from coast to coast. One notable example is New York’s Kung Fu Tea, a franchise that has more than 150 outlets across the United States and continues to expand internationally. Drinking boba tea from a lightbulb is a related trend that began in Seoul, South Korea. The practice has become so popular in San Jose, California’s Square Bar Café that stocking lightbulbs in pace with consumer demand is a constant challenge. This trend has also been picked up by Austin, Texas’s Mango8  dessert shop.

Cheese Tea

Happy Lemon cheese tea
Cheese tea is one more trend that began in Taiwan and grew outside of the Asian continent. It was created in 2010 and then spread throughout China, Malaysia, Australia and crossed the Pacific Ocean to the United States and beyond. American establishments are serving up the creamy and savory combination of 80 percent tea and 20 percent cream cheese with a sprinkle of salt and customers are loving it. Little Fluffy Head Café in Los Angeles embodies the trend, serving cheese tea in a variety of flavors and combinations, from classic black tea to matcha and fruit. A handful of New York-based cafés Auntea, Macao Imperial Tea, and Debutea opened last spring. Cheese tea can be enjoyed hot or iced, and its uniquely creamy texture is sure to make it a mainstay on menus.