Sipping on tea is basically a daily ritual for most Brits, with almost 36bn cups consumed a year in the UK. A new dimension to this national pastime has recently been brewing, busting the leaves out of drinks and into food.
Take the partnership between Teapigs and Creighton’s Chocolates, who have recently created three new flavoured bars inspired by tea. Creighton’s are a mother-daughter team who handmake all their chocolate in the UK.
Chai tea is the basis for a milk chocolate bar with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove and caramel pieces, while natural peppermint oil is incorporated into a 54% dark chocolate option that also includes nibbed cocoa beans.
Last is the 'super fruit,' inspired by Teapigs' favourite summer iced tea, which is made with white chocolate, freeze-dried mixed berries, hibiscus petals and the addition of some buttery biscuit for extra crunch. All three bars are 100g and come in plastic-free packaging.
Tea is also crossing over into other indulgent categories as well. In February, Häagen-Dazs released two new ice creams, one promising the flavour of coffee, while the other (called Caramel Chai Latte) included a blend of darjeeling and assam.
Food Spark has previously highlighted the successor to matcha, a Japanese roasted green tea called hojicha, which has appeared in products in the UK and overseas via chocolate, ice cream and even sponge cake.
Appealing to the youth
Snacking seems to be an area ripe for innovation when it comes to tea infusions in food, particularly for brands looking to tap into the booming health trend.
American manufacturer Del Monte launched new fruit pots ranges into Tesco in October last year. It’s premium Fruit Fusions, which were marketed as a “healthy pick-me up solution to combat the mid-afternoon energy slump,” included Gold Pineapple with Green Tea. On the other side of things, Nim's created an edible tea designed to be a drink and snack in one.
But tea is also moving its way into main meals. Japanese brand Miwabi exhibited at the Japan Food Show last year with its green tea noodles that could be used as a base for a meal or to create a soup.
Last July, luxury Singaporean brand TWG Tea launched into Leicester Square. Apart from 800-plus loose tea varieties, it sells a range of tea-infused products – everything from shortbreads, jellies and ice cream to macaroons and bonbons.
Having sold its tea in Harrods for almost a decade, expanding into the food side of things was a big part of the brand launching its own standalone site in London.
“You’re very limited when you work with just retailers,” co-founder and business director Maranda Barnes told Food Spark’s sister site The Grocer. “We couldn’t expand to the F&B side of tea-infused cuisine – the macaroons, the chocolate, the ice cream. All that was another way to attract a younger customer.”
The Leicester Square site has a tea room and restaurant on the second floor too that serves up a range of tea-inspired meals. The menu features tea-infused ingredients like roast tomatoes, potatoes, pasta and chicken, cheese sprinkled with freshly ground tea, as well as vinaigrettes and sauces created using tea.
So is Sparkie swapping his cuppa for a gourmet alternative?
I remember there being a little bit of discussion going on about the health benefits of tea about a year ago but it seemed to have died out. It’s interesting because it’s one of the few health foods that actually has some scientific backing.
The big issue is that the unique components of tea are in very small quantities, so you really need to drink a lot for it to do any noticeable good. There's also a fairly strong correlation between the worst-tasting teas and higher quantities of the components that provide health benefits – because they are bitter and tannic.
Ultimately, due to the scientific backing, if the media presence came back, tea could see a bigger resurgence than it is doing already by playing into the health food trends.