There are few things in the world that invoke a sense of Britain quite like tea. Perhaps it is with some alarm then that we’re told Brits are drinking less tea nowadays.

More accurately, we’re drinking less traditional tea — we drank 870 million cups less of the stuff in 2017, but the overall value for tea rose by 0.6 per cent, so it’s certainly not a case of losing love for tea. But our tea might very well be getting a little more variety!

What type of tea-drinker are you?

There are different types of tea-drinker in this world. According to the Modern Tea Trends 2019 study, 50 per cent of tea brands identified the 24–35 year old group as their biggest growing demographic. Perhaps because of this, the view of tea has changed. It’s no longer a milky, warm beverage that sits on a table while people discuss problems, though it is still the go-to makeshift remedy for everything from a bad day at work to a broken leg. Now, tea has a swathe of health benefits to its name. It’s more than murky brown leaf-water; it’s a bright and colourful variety of health and wellness beverages. For example, research has shown that tea can lower stress hormone cortisol! Unsurprisingly then, 80 per cent of brands are watching the wellness trend as a key asset for tea.

According to the National Tea Day group, there are two main examples of tea-drinkers. Ready for a quick quiz to find out which type you are?

  1. Is it more important to you for your tea to be comforting or healthy?
    1. Comforting. If a good strong brew can’t fix it, it’s probably not worth fixing.
    1. Healthy. A good tea should give me energy, pep, and cleanse my inner being.
  2. Your perfect cup of tea would be…
    1. Creamy or milky. Best described as a ‘hug in a mug’.
    1. Colourful. Whether it’s red, blue, green, or purple, it needs to be bright and beautiful.
  3. Sensory-wise, you expect your tea experience to be…
    1. Sweet, or sweet-ish. If you wanted to assault your tongue with bitter tones, you’d have ordered a coffee…
    1. Sensual, or aromatic. The experience of my tea is not just in taste but in smell. It should pamper my nose as much as my tongue.

Answering mainly a makes you a Traditionalist. You care about your tea being a healing drink, but not necessarily in the sense of it carrying antioxidants or being hydrating. It’s just about comfort for you, a means to relax and calm down with a soothing cup of milky tea.

Answering mainly b makes you a Modernist. Times are changing, and so is your go-to tea. Your tea isn’t always designed to make you fall into a milk-and-sugar-wrapped blanket of cosy warmth. Sure, camomile tea will relax you when you need it, but you have tea for every occasion. For energy, for a cold, for digestion, for preserving health, for anxiety, you name it, you’ve got a type of tea to wind around all the senses and sort it right out.

Changing tea

Tea is more than just a go-to default drink. This ties in with the rise of herbal teas over standard black leaf tea — herbal teas come in so many varieties, from all over the world, and often have intricate ceremonies or stories attached to them. These aspects are as much of the ‘sensual’ experience as the tea itself. Cafés and tea rooms have been using this to their benefit too, offering tea experiences for their customers, such as offering food created to complement the flavour of different herbal teas, or brewing the leaves in a beautiful antique silver teapot in order to achieve a higher brewing temperature than a normal teapot, and making use of silver’s neutrality, protecting the pure taste of the tea. The whole experience is catered for the customer’s enjoyment. 

And that’s not all. Tea is also incredibly flexible, as it can be enjoyed at home with full control over your personal taste, or out enjoying an aforementioned experience and story.

Reading the tea leaves

There are a number of different health benefits to tea:

Red — hibiscus tea

This bold red tea is naturally caffeine and calorie free. It has a sweet and tart taste and is popular in North Africa and Southeast Asia. Particularly in Africa, hibiscus tea is touted as having many benefits, including helping with a sore throat and high blood pressure. Indeed, one study has noted that hibiscus tea contributed to the reduction of the systolic blood pressure of its participants.

Orange — barley tea 

Korea, China, and Japan are huge fans of this next tea. Served hot or cold depending on the season, this go-to Korean drink is made from whole grain roasted barley and has a mild nutty taste. Like hibiscus tea, it is caffeine-free. There are a lot of health claims tied to barley tea, but only few have been proven by scientific study. These range from claims to help with cold symptoms, aiding a sore stomach, clearing complexion, and even weight loss. But, if nothing else, it’s a great caffeine-free alternative to coffee and traditional tea!

Yellow — lemon and honey tea

Lemon and honey tea is the best when you’re feeling under the weather. This golden-coloured tea has the main claim to fame for fighting cold symptoms, but it’s also been said to help with everything from weight loss to acne. With the vitamin C boost from the lemon, and the cough-supressing nature of the honey, this is a drink that does have some scientific backing in terms of helping with a cough and general sniffles. But sadly the claims of clearing acne and weight loss are as yet unconfirmed by scientific study. Still, it is definitely one to reach for next time cold season comes around.

Green — green tea

Green tea has so many wellness and mental health claims to its name. You’d be forgiven for thinking green tea was brewed from the Fountain of Youth, for all the attention it has gained in the wellness industry. But are any of the stories true?

Simply put, yes. Green tea is packed with antioxidants and catechins, the latter of which could slow down bacterial growth as well as being thought to make people feel calmer. The green brew has also been claimed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and boost metabolic rate.

There are a lot of bold health claims behind tea. But if nothing else, tea does count towards your daily water needs, with the dehydrating claims of tea having been debunked. So, top up that teacup — it’s trendy and healthy!