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tea trends

Tea Industry

Trend Watch: Cheese Tea Comes West

September 5, 2017

Cream cheese and tea… a match made in Heaven?

Cheese tea is a new trend that’s sweeping across Asian cities, and it’s starting to pop up in the United States.

Chinese tea companies started whipping up the new beverage a few years ago, topping green and fruit teas with frothy cream cheese.

Regiustea Cheese Tea

Regiustea is a leader in the cheese tea trend, placing a layer of frothy cream cheese on top of tea | Facebook

The drink has become very popular in Chinese cities, inspiring people to form lines that spill into the streets, drawing comparisons to the cronut and cupcake crazes that have drawn similar crowds in the US.

HEYTEA cheese tea

People line up for cheese tea at HEYTEA in Guangzhou | LINK

Popular chains serving the hip new tea in China include Regiustea (72 stores), Royaltea (130 stores), and HEYTEA (50 stores).

Some have the compared the beverage’s taste to cheesecake, while others have praised the drink’s complementary sweet cream cheese and bitter tea flavors.

The Chinese diet has not traditionally incorporated dairy, but thanks to our increasingly global society, that is changing:

According to Bloomberg, dairy exporters are working hard to encourage Chinese chefs to incorporate milk and cheese by hosting educational workshops to teach chefs how to work with dairy and make Western dishes that call for cheese. Fonterra, the world’s biggest dairy exporter, reported a 36% increase in milk exports to China between October 2015 and 2016. Overall, Fonterra says its exports to China are growing by over 10% a year.  Pizza, whose menu penetration has doubled in China since 2010, is driving much of the country’s dairy consumption, and now cream cheese-topped teas are poised to do the same.

Check out this video from Fonterra about its role in the rise of cheese tea in China:

Many Chinese people are lactose-intolerant, but as Western dishes like pizza, condiments like butter, and drinks like cheese tea are introduced to younger consumers, that intolerance can decrease.

Most teahouses that serve cheese tea feature an 80/20 ratio of tea to cheese, although some operations offer customizable amounts of cheese for patrons who tolerate dairy unequally. Some outposts sprinkle sea salt or matcha on top of the cream cheese, while others keep things sweet without any additions.

Sellers recommend you do not stir the tea—the tea and cream cheese layers should remain distinct. To drink, tilt the cup back 45 degrees and the tea will pass through the cream cheese layer.  When the tea is gone, tip your cup back to enjoy a tea-infused gulp of cream cheese that will most likely give you a cheese moustache. In our increasingly Instagram-driven culture, the cheese ‘stache has been a draw for foodies on the hunt for a great pic and a great selling point for operators.

regiustea promo

The cheese ‘stache is a selling point for the cheese tea. | Reguistea Facebook

The cheese tea trend has proven so successful, with many stores in popular Chinese cities selling more than 1,000 cheese teas per day, that the drink has spread to other Asian countries, most notably Malyasia and Taiwan, with the expansion to Singapore and Vietnam on the horizon.

The trend has already spread to the United States:

New York City’s Happy Lemon features Salty Cheese Tea. The Flushing, Queens store features black or green tea topped with cream cheese and rock salt.

And Milwaukee’s Artisan Ramen, opening soon, will feature cheese tea on its menu.

Be on the lookout for cheese tea in more stores, as we expect trend-forward operations to hop on the cheese wheel in the months to come.

Tea Guides

How To Be A Trendy Tea Drinker This Year

January 5, 2017

We told you what tea trends will be taking center stage in 2017: green tea, matcha, and easy packaging options like on-tap tea and bottled teas. Now we’re here to show you just how you can be a part of these trends. If your New Year’s resolution was to be cool, you’re in luck.  Get ready to be ahead of the curve:

1) Green Tea

Green tea’s expected to perform very well in 2017 and beyond, especially as a bottled option for busy commuters in search of a healthy alternative to sugary sodas. Snapple, Lipton, Honest Tea, Arizona, and Tazo Tea all offer iced green bottled teas. Swipe one when you want to be trendy but you’re pressed for time. Or order an on-trend coffee-inspired green tea beverage, like a green tea latte from Starbucks or a green tea latte paired with vanilla or peppermint from Peet’s Coffee. Look for green tea to be offered at more and more locations, from highway rest stops and movie theaters to convenience stores and vending machines as it settles decidedly into the mainstream.  Go big green!

2) Matcha

Matcha is on the rise. Look for it on tea menus as a beverage and as a flavor in dishes from breakfast and lunch to dinner and dessert. Scan your menu and you’ll probably find matcha waffles and French fries or matcha chicken and pork belly this year. This green powder is infiltrating all parts of the menu, and not just at fancy restaurants. Matcha’s made it to the Big Leagues: Haagen Dazs sells its matcha green tea ice cream by the pint in American grocery stores and Trader Joes sells a Matcha Green Tea Latte Mix. Don’t be surprised if Japanese products like Matcha Oreos and Matcha Kit Kats come to the United States sooner rather than later.  Get ready to be singing “Break me off a piece of that matcha stick!”  OK, the jingle may need work, but the point is: matcha will be rolling off more and more tongues.

3) Tea On Tap

Get ready to see bartenders carrying kegs of tea or pulling a kombucha tap at the local watering hole this year. You can be part of this trend by ordering a tea keg for your next birthday party or installing a tea tap at your eatery. Full Service Restaurants said last year that, “Beverages on tap remain fresher for longer and offer a unique experience—bold flavors with an eye-catching presentation.”  Several companies work to bring tea kegs and taps to restaurants and organizations, such as Joyride, who argues that a tap “is the perfect solution to serve non-alcoholic beverages, offering product consistency, streamlined workflow, reduction of waste, and a unique customer experience.” That’s a lot of benefits on both sides of the bar! Joyride offers Ceylon Iced Tea and Green Tea in kegs and kombucha on tap. Look for signs outside bars advertising the allocation of taps to kombucha and tea, perfect for tea lovers not in the mood for an alcoholic beverage or non-drinkers looking for a way to feel included by the bar hopping experience.

Tea History & Culture

Tea Trends for 2017

January 3, 2017

This year, tea’s not just here to stay—it’s poised to rise. According to MarketWatch, the global tea market will grow by 6.88 billion from 14.45 billion at the end of 2016 to 21.33 billion in 2024. Louise Pollock, the President of food, health, and wellness PR firm Pollock Communications, told Beverage Daily, “The beverage category has grown exponentially and tea is set to experience a lot of growth moving into 2017 and 2018.” But what exactly can we expect from the tea industry this year? We noticed a few prominent trends you can look forward to this year:

1) Green Tea

After surveying 1700 registered dieticians, Pollock Communications named green tea one of the Top Ten Superfoods of 2017. As busy Americans look for beverages on the go that are both convenient and healthy, look out for more bottled green teas. In addition to green teas, Pollock Communications expects teas made with whole leaves and natural ingredients to rise, thanks to our increasingly health-conscious population.

2) Matcha 

According to Datassential, matcha grew by 50% in the US from 2010 to 2015, and multiple sources say it will continue to rise in availability and popularity in the coming years. In 2015, just 1% of non-alcoholic beverage menus included matcha, so it’s still in its early stage of consumer awareness and demand, but get ready to watch that number climb. Matcha most commonly appears on menus as a tea or in blended beverages, but it’s also a great ingredient in baking, as we illustrated with White Chocolate Matcha Brownies. So look out for this green powder on dessert menus or in the grocery aisle to make your own tea-infused baked goods.

3) Tea on Tap

Restaurants want to make it easy to deliver you a new, exciting product. FoodBytes says, “Suddenly everything is on tap—wine, cocktails, nitro and cold brew coffee, kombucha, on-tred spirits like amaro.” That’s right: this year we predict you’ll see kombucha and other teas on tap with greater frequency. It’s part of a larger trend you’ll see in 2017: packaging and formatting that makes tea even easier to grab in a restaurant or on the go. From eateries that have self-serving taps at your table to coffee shops, movie theaters, and supermarkets offering exotic bottled teas, 2017 will see more grab ‘n sip options than ever before.

4) More, More, More

Tea trends from the last several years will drive the growth of tea consumption at home, at restaurants, and on the go in 2017. We’ll continue to see teas blending herbs and spices to deliver exotic and flavorful beverages, lesser-known leaves like oolong and rooibos sharing shelf space with black and green teas, tea dishes incorporating on-trend flavors like cateja, tea-infused cocktails, coffee-inspired teas (i.e. a green tea latte or mocha), ingredients like berries and fruit replacing milk and sugar as co-stars in every cup, and the strong performance of iced tea—85% of tea consumption in the USA is iced, per the Tea Association of the United States. These trends are far from over, and we’ll continue to see them grow this year. 

Whatever way you pour it, the teacup is looking half full for 2017!