What Will Captivate the Next Generation of Tea Enthusiasts? Experts, Tea Sommeliers Share Insights

World Tea News spoke with tea sommeliers and tea leaders about what will shape the future of the tea community and attract the next generation of tea drinkers. They cited functional and wellness teas (teas like immune boosters, stress relief blends, teas for insomnia, etc.), instant tea beverages, the importance of creating an experience around tea, and the need to lower the barrier of entry as next-gen key areas.

“On the exciting tea horizon, a fresh cohort of enthusiasts from the next generation embark on a daring mission: to merge time-honored tradition with cutting-edge innovation,” said Tea Sommelier Antoninna Del Sol Pardo, who operates between Colombia and Canada. “They confidently navigate uncharted flavor domains, armed with groundbreaking techniques that steer tea through a mesmerizing evolution.”

This transformation, according to Del Sol Pardo, bridges cultures and ushers in well-being in astonishingly unexpected ways. “Technology, making its grand entrance gracefully, unveils apps that disclose teas of singular origins and virtually transports users to distant plantations,” she said. “In their world, hyper-connected by a shared fervor, tea aficionados trade stories, weaving a global tribe bound by their unrestrained passion. Brace for the tea future, where authenticity, limitless creativity, and international camaraderie effortlessly transcend constraints.”

In the midst of this exhilarating narrative, Del Sol Pardo said the "cool-ture" of tea enhances its trendiness, and “green” steps into the spotlight as the freshest “new black” for the up-and-coming tea crews.

The tsunami of wellness-conscious living has reeled in a broader crowd, particularly drawn them to guilt-free sips like tea and infused delights, explained Del Sol Pardo. “But hold tight, because here's where the enchantment brews: The gongfu tea style of preparing tea becomes the ultimate cool, transforming tea crafting into an adventure that's a rollercoaster of enjoyment, enchanting and mind-blowingly health-boosting,” she said. “The legendary mystique of Eastern culture propels tea into a captivating voyage of sensation, taste and emotion. This narrative is prepared to cast an irresistible spell, beckoning new tea enthusiasts to keep journeying through the tea multiverse.”

Attracting the Next Generation of Tea Drinkers - Tea Sommelier Antoninna Del Sol Pardo
Tea Sommelier Antoninna Del Sol Pardo (Photo: Courtesy of Antoninna Del Sol Pardo)

Flavor, Health and Wellness, Tea Mocktails Will Attract the Next Gen of Tea Drinkers

Tea Sommelier Claudia Aguilera, based in in Mazatlán, Mexico, said flavor, health and wellness, and a desire for non-alcoholic drinks will propel the next generation of tea drinkers. “Tea leaves us with a taste for subtlety, for soft flavors and for a healthy life, where there is clarity of thought and you can enjoy deep conversations. As a lover of gastronomy, I realize the great market niche that few are understanding – the market for decent non-alcoholic drinks.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Aguilera saw how many people changed some of their habits with a focus on health and wellness, some of them choosing not to consume alcohol. “However, the pleasure of enjoying a good drink and that feeling of being able to release the body and stress is becoming stronger,” she said, thus inspiring the next generation of tea drinkers. “I see the great need to serve the world of mocktails, and my favorite ingredient in a mocktail is a good tea. That secret ingredient that leaves you guessing what that special flavor note is that caresses your palate and enriches your aftertaste.”

Bala Sarda, CEO and founder of VAHDAM India, believes the next generation of tea drinkers will seeks an experience that aligns with their values and lifestyle, including their focus on health and wellness. “They are attracted to wellness and health-centric beverages, making tea a natural choice due to its natural antioxidants and health benefits,” he explained. “Herbal, fruit and flavored teas have gained popularity among young consumers, along with functional teas that offer specific health benefits.”

Sarda said that functional teas – enriched with adaptogens and Ayurvedic spices and cordyceps – are projected to soar in popularity among young tea enthusiasts.

Chris Tanobi, a matcha maven representing Ujiha, which is based in Kagoshima, Japan, said the next generation of tea drinkers is likely to be attracted to teas that offer unique and diverse flavors, as well as teas that provide health benefits and sustainability.

“Artisanal and specialty teas – such as single-origin loose-leaf teas and herbal blends – can capture their interest,” Tanobi shared. “Additionally, tea infused with other natural ingredients like fruits, spices or flowers can appeal to their adventurous taste buds. Creative and aesthetically appealing tea packaging can also play a role in catching their attention.”

To engage future tea drinkers, it's important to create an experience around tea. Tanobi said tea tastings and educational events can help the next generation of tea drinkers discover new flavors and understand the complexities of different teas. “Embracing technology, such as online tea communities, virtual tea workshops or augmented reality tea experiences can connect with the tech-savvy generation,” he added. “Moreover, promoting the health benefits of tea and its positive impact on mental well-being can resonate with health-conscious consumers.”

The future of the tea community will be heavily influenced by inclusivity and accessibility, according to Tanobi. “Tea businesses should strive to be welcoming spaces that cater to diverse tastes and preferences,” he said. “Emphasizing the social aspect of tea-drinking, such as creating cozy tea lounges or organizing tea meet-ups, can foster a sense of community among tea enthusiasts. Moreover, engaging with younger generations through social media and influencer partnerships can help expand the tea community's reach.”

The Tea Industry Needs to Lower the Barrier to Attract New Tea Enthusiasts

Darren Hartford, owner of Oliver Pluff & Company in Charleston, S.C., said in order to engage future tea drinkers, the industry needs to lower the barrier of entry. “Gen Z wants to know the story of their products, but they don’t want to be told they are doing it wrong,” he said. “As an industry, we should encourage people to discover what they like and show them the basics while also encouraging them to explore different blends and types. If someone wants to put honey and cream in their tea, great! Leave their tea bag in a cup… awesome! Welcome them on the tea journey, share the story and the flavors, and along the way, show there is more to tea than just dunking a bag in some hot water.”

Hartford added that great products in beautiful packaging, along with a strong story to connect to, always wins – no matter the generation. “Our industry has a long history of fantastic stories and unique terroirs that we can use to reach new audiences and continue the traditions of tea,” he noted.

Kat Wiranowski, director of marketing for ORGANIC INDIA USA, said brands will need to double down on transparency into their social and environmental initiatives in a way that demonstrates how their business practices align with their messaging.

“The ‘good for the planet’ positioning is becoming more ubiquitous as consumer demand for products made with environmentally conscious practices increases,” said Wiranowski. “Transparency helps the conscious consumer decipher which brands truly align with their values, and which are just engaging in rhetoric.”

Wiranowski noted that regenerative, organic, Fairtrade and B Corp are all certifications that consumers can look for to verify such practices through a credible third party, and many younger tea drinkers will especially look for these certifications. Brands should also elaborate on specific practices behind the certifications, communicating this on the brand website, social media and on the packaging itself.

Liat Racin, founder of Tamim Teas in Cambridge, Mass., said the next generation of tea lovers respect tea traditions but also value functional herbal teas. “This is especially so among Gen Z, who are growing up in an age of increased stress and anxiety. Taking a moment to brew a cup of tea [or herbal tea] can help us achieve a calm, mindful state of being and reap the benefits…” she said. 

Luciana Torous, owner of 3 Leaf Tea in Auburn, N.Y., believes instant tea beverages will engage future tea drinkers. “Right now, we live in a world of convenience – the thought of having multiple steps to prepare tea puts a lot of people off,” she said. “People want to drink amazing flavor on the go without sacrificing quality. I feel more and more companies will find ways to create instant tea drinks that taste much better than what is on the market today. I've already seen it happening with coffee, so I think tea is next.”

Attracting the Next Generation of Tea Drinkers - 3 Leaf Tea - Luciana Torous
Luciana Torous of 3 Leaf Tea (Photo: Courtesy of 3 Leaf Tea)

Erin Flynn Jay is a reporter and publicist based in Philadelphia. She’s also an occasional contributor to Questex’s World Tea News, in addition to having written for Questex’s Bar & Restaurant News, Next Avenue and Woman’s World, among many others.

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