Report Looks at Tea Trends in India, How the Country’s F&B Diversity Is Taking Center Stage Around the World

India's tea culture has evolved with chai wallahs (tea makers or sellers) experimenting with innovative blends and infusing exotic flavors like saffron, cardamom and even chocolate into their brews, all while retaining the essence of authenticity that has made them a cherished institution.

Of course, tea consumption is legendary in India, so much so that India is celebrating 200 years of tea history in 2023. And in recent years, it has evolved into a culture that encompasses not only the traditional forms of “chai” but also a variety of tea leaves, Ayurvedic (alternative medicine in India) and herbal teas, tisanes and much more. Even tea-driven experiences like tea tastings and estate tours are on the rise in India, bringing attention to the country and what it offers.

All of this is according to the sixth edition of Godrej Food Trends Report, which says 2023 is the year of “India shining” for its food and beverage culinary diversity.

The new report – from Godrej Industries Limited – has insights from 350+ celebrity chefs, home chefs, professional chefs, food bloggers, health professionals, mixologists, nutritionists, restaurateurs, sommeliers, food producers and more – all of whom share deep insights about their respective areas of expertise and the increased interest in and innovation with all things food and beverage from India (including tea).

Overall, the report says India is taking center stage globally and setting standards for everyone to follow, and it also offers insights on trends in the country that are also playing out on an international scale.

"Gone are the days when tea was just about cutting chai,” the report says. “Today, the consumer has become smarter, more worldly and is looking for much more. Our experts predict that caffeine-free, herbal-infused teas will see a rise in 2023. However, the discerning customer won’t move as far away from Indian chai as we may think. Consumers are looking for innovations in traditional chai and its variants. Moreover, they will get even more experimental with a rise in the consumption of tea-based cocktails/mocktails and sparkling teas.”

The report says that 67 percent of the Godrej Food Trends Report panel believes consumers are looking for increased consumption of herbal and floral-infused, caffeine-free teas, and 56 percent of the panel believes consumers are looking for innovation in traditional Indian chai and its variants, with 44 percent of the panel noting that consumers are looking for a shift to sustainable packing in teas. Another 44 percent of the panel says consumers are searching for flavor in wellness teas.

The report also quotes Abid Rahman, chief operating officer of India's Tea Valley, who says the current generation of Indians is health conscious and can afford different types of teas, but they’re also willing to experiment with floral and herbal infusions. “This space will grow but will not exceed two percent of India’s tea consumption, and the demand will be concentrated in the urban areas,” he said.

Post Pandemic, Tea Is Reimagined in India (and Around the World) with a Greater Focus on Health and Wellness

A related knowledge paper on “Reimagining the Tea Industry in India" – from BDO India LLP, a consultancy firm – says the onset of the pandemic led to a resurgence of tea consumption with proven health benefits. The paper says that during the pandemic, the positioning of tea as a wellness and lifestyle beverage was reinforced in the consumer psyche, which led to businesses to explore new tea launches in this segment.

“Tea is often considered a wellness and lifestyle beverage with new varieties and blends with Asia Pacific expected to be the most lucrative market for herbal tea followed by North America, the report says. "It is apparent that the trend, which started during the pandemic, is expected to continue in the long run, with growing awareness among consumers regarding health benefits, and it is expected to translate into higher purchases of the healthy foods and beverages market. The global herbal tea market is expected to grow at a CAGR 7.1 percent from 2022-2032 and is valued at US$7.3 billion."

Glenburn Tea Direct’s President Shalini Prakash Agarwal, a top tea producer of India and a recent World Tea Expo participant, said due to the pandemic, more people have begun shopping online. This has led them to be exposed to and try many more types of teas – flavored teas, tisanes and especially those with added health benefits. 

“Specialty, pure artisanal teas are also gaining interest [from consumers], in particular those from Darjeeling, which are still considered the Champagne of teas,” Agarwal told World Tea News.

Flavored and Herbal Teas Gain Popularity in India and Around the World

Madhav Sarda, managing director of India’s Golden Tips Tea, said, “Flavored and herbal teas are particularly popular in India and worldwide. Known for boosting immunity, these particular teas are now in big demand post-pandemic. Earl grey black tea is particularly a favorite among tea lovers across the globe. Among the herbal teas, chamomile tea and lemongrass tea are in demand."

Sarda pointed out that flavored tea in India and around the world is also gaining popularity. “Flavor in tea can be added in the form of spices, nuts, flowers or flavor extracts, such as essential oils of bergamot, lemon, cranberry, honey, mint, etc.," he said. "With several organized players in the industry entering the fray, the flavored tea market is growing at a fast clip in India. According to industry sources, the flavored tea market growth is estimated at 45 percent per year in India.”

On the other hand, Upamanyu Borkakoty, co-founder of India’s Woolah Tea, which unveiled the world’s first bagless tea dip, says innovation has commoditized tea so far. “We are building innovation to bring back the old glory with modern innovation. Woolah is reinventing tea [in a way that] it used to be with traditional and ancient production methods and fusing it with modern innovation to make it an authentic experience at use.”

Ranjit Baruah of India’s Aromica Tea, which saw a range of Chinese teas at the recently concluded Hong Kong International Tea Fair, says China is years ahead of Assam tea in terms of teas produced, value addition, herbal infusions, tea-based drinks and packaging styles. “We may say that we are in a nascent stage as most of the herbal infusions – like chamomile, jasmine, hibiscus – are already there. It was a good experience for me [at the tea fair] and I would work more on value-addition in tea.”

Roopak Goswami has worked for more than two decades as a newspaper journalist in Northeast India. Tea is his passion, and he covers the global tea industry regularly for World Tea News.

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