Brits are known the world over for their obsessive love of tea. They enjoy afternoon tea, with its ridiculously tiny sandwiches and delectable scones, a word they pronounce in a pretty strange way. They created elevenses, just to give themselves another reason to drink tea, but this time before noon. And then there is high tea, which we're pretty sure was invented simply to confuse knuckle-dragging Americans about the various ways in which you can drink tea on the delightful British Isles.
But a new study by Mintel, which looks at consumer preferences, found that British Millennials and members of the so-called Generation Z aren't living up to their God-save-the-Queen birthright of downing gallons of the stuff. Young people in the UK say they don't like the plain old black tea that their parents favoured. Instead, they are much more likely to drink green tea or fruit-flavoured teas. In fact, green, fruit, herbal and specialty teas now make up 29 per cent of the UK retail market.
Richard Caines, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel, explained: "UK retail value sales of tea have been in decline in recent years, with growth in sales of green, fruit, herbal and speciality teas not enough to make up for a fall in sales of standard black tea which dominates the market." Tea sales overall are down five percent this year.
Fewer than one out of six people aged 16 to 34 are really banging back the tea in that archetypal British way—by downing five or more cups a day.
Why is consumption of black tea down? Mintel speculates that despite what many Americans (and the creators of Austin Powers) may say, the British are in fact concerned with their teeth. Many young people don't want to stain their teeth with tea. Taste is another reason; the younger participants in the study reported that they find the taste of black tea to be "unappealing."
Black tea's health rap isn't great either. Sixteen percent of people said that they wouldn't drink it in the afternoon because it has too much caffeine, and another 13 percent said it is not good for hydration.
The bottom line, Mintel advises, is that "tea brands need to increase the appeal of their products to 16 to 34-year-olds who drink black tea less frequently." Black tea may be over, but they see hope in the flavoured alternatives: "One way of encouraging more tea drinking among younger consumers is with more choice of flavours and indulgent varieties."
It looks like a new sun is rising on the Sceptred Isle and that most basic of teas might just be relegated to the shadows forevermore.