Get Brewing, Get Healthy: The Rise of Tea In The United States

Tea. Second to water, it’s the most popular drink on Earth.

But so what?

This is the same kooky world in which soccer is the most popular sport. And just as you may have noticed these United States catching World Cup fever (symptoms include office pools, painted hooligans signing in the streets, and impromptu car horn melodies during sleeping hours) we are now starting our belated love affair with tea.

Tea’s rise has been nothing short of astronomical, and it shows no signs of letting up. In the past fifteen years, tea sales have increased five-fold . The 3.6 billion gallons Americans consumed last year is ten percent more than we consumed as recently as 2012. Incredibly, industry experts believe that this growth is just beginning of a larger trend; the Tea Association predicts that tea sales will double over the next five years.

Much of the herbal drink’s success is owed to the growth of specialty teas – loose leaf varieties with exotic origins – which have been enjoying a growth rate of eight to ten percent. Suppliers and wholesalers are starting to take note. Many of these teas which would have been nearly impossible to find ten or twenty years ago such as white, green, or oolong varieties, are now stocked in major supermarkets.

Still, the most promising sign may be the reaction of coffee sellers, who have resigned themselves to a “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach. Take Starbucks for example. The coffee titan not only expanded its $1.4 billion Tazo Tea line, but also hedged by buying Teavana (a retailer of loose leaf teas) for $620 million.

“We can do for tea what we’ve done for coffee,” Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz proclaimed, adding that he believes the tea market to be worth $90 billion .

Mr. Schultz is making a wise move for a number of reasons, first and foremost the popularity of tea among younger generations. Though 70 percent of Americans 65 and older prefer coffee to tea, 18 to 29 year olds are evenly divided in their preference. As younger generations become more globally curious and attracted to the organic food movements, their taste for tea will continue to grow.

That said, it is important to acknowledge that the growth in tea is rooted in something much stronger than foodie trends or interest in exotic cultures. The biggest reason to drink tea may be something that concerns all of us – health. More and more, studies are proving that tea has both short- and long-term health benefits.

Feel good today…

  • Get energized, stay energized – As coffee and energy drink consumers know, caffeine can be a roller coaster ride. The buzz and crash that these drinks provide can feel more like a controlled substance than an office-place beverage. Due to polyphenols, the naturally occurring antioxidants in many types of tea, caffeine is absorbed more slowly and steadily into the body. A more level and enduring energy can be helpful for students or professionals attempting to tackle mentally challenging tasks. There’s nothing productive about a crash!
  • Focus, focus, focus – L-Theanin, an amino acid found specifically in black teas, has been proven in studies to cause alertness by increasing alpha waves in the brain. These alpha waves coincide with deep focus and heightened alertness. If you’ve got an important presentation, exam, or job interview, black tea is the perfect preparatory beverage.
  • Relax – A recent British study actually proved how effective tea can be in reducing stress. The study , which placed subjects in a stressful scenario and then measured their anxiety levels found that those who were given tea after the stress event were four percent less stressed than before. Those who did not receive tea were 25 percent more stressed. We all have difficult days – blow off some steam with some steaming hot tea.

And tomorrow!

  • Ditch the pounds – With summer fast approaching, ‘tis the season to be dropping that extra winter insulation. Tea can both jump-start your metabolism and shrink fat cells; in fact, one Taiwanese study showed tea drinkers to have 20 percent less body fat than those who abstained from the herbal brew. Researchers believe this is due in part to catechins, a compound found especially in green teas, which cause the release of fat from cells and speeds the liver’s fat burning capabilities. A weight loss method that’s actually enjoyable? Score.
  • Plus up your stats – Not to minimize the importance of toned abs and buns, but it is important to make sure that everything under the hood is working smoothly as well. Once again, tea has got you covered. After you’ve relaxed with a cup, you can enjoy the fact that tea drinkers have been shown to have lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure . This means reduced risk for stroke, diabetes, and coronary artery disease. Rock on.
  • Fight the big one – Finally, tea has been shown to protect against the notorious c-word: cancer. The antioxidants in tea have been found to be a significant weapon against cancer. Multiple studies have proved its efficacy in fighting breast, colon, stomach, and throat cancers. There has even been speculation that tea consumption could be the reason Japan has such a low incidence of cancer despite having a large number of smokers.

So now that you know the facts, go ahead and join the movement. Look better, feel better, and stay mentally sharp all day. What’s not to love?

Brew. Sip. Be Happy.

~Nicholas Ryan