A lifestyle survey conducted by the council released in June found 86% of Americans drink green tea compared to 59% who drink black, white and oolong teas. In addition, green tea consumption is growing at a much higher rate than black tea and is up 60% in volume over the last 10 years as of 2014, according to the council.
Even though more Americans are drinking green tea, the amount consumed “is still nowhere near the amount being consumed in the US,” tempered Peter Goggi, president of the Tea Council of the USA. He explained, “We are still a black tea consuming nation” with “about 80-85% of the tea drunk in the US is black tea.”
About 15% of tea consumed in the US is green tea, with the small remaining amount accounting for oolong, white and dark tea, according to the association.
Three drivers of increased green tea consumption
Nonetheless, the number of Americas choosing green tea is increasing in part because consumers are more likely to associate it with health benefits than black, white or oolong teas, according to the council’s survey.
In fact, more than half of Americans said they turn to green tea rather than the other types when they feel sick or stressed, the survey found.
Green tea could lose its edge, however, as more emerging research shows black tea, which comes from the same plant – camellia sinenis – as green, oolong and white is just as healthy, Goggi noted.
Consumers also are embracing green tea because it is relatively new to the US compared to black tea and the country overall is becoming more adventurous in their food and beverage selections, Goggi said.
He added that because green tea comes in so many varieties, it also serves as a gateway for consumers to experience new cultures, which is a macro trend influencing food and beverages now, Goggi said.
Within green tea, “you see different shapes of tea, you see different sources of origin – what we call terroir of tea – being offered to the consumers so they cannot just try green tea, but they can try green tea from Darjeeling or they can try green tea from the north Vietnamese region verses the south Vietnamese region.”
Finally, Goggi said, American’s interest in green tea is growing because they are seeking new flavors in general, and green tea has a very unique – even if polarizing – flavor.
“Green teas are manufactured differently, so some green teas are steamed and some are pan fired. So this difference in manufacturers drives very different palate experiences. So some green teas are very astringent, some green teas are very smooth, some green teas have a fishy note to them,” Goggi said, adding: “This desire on the part of consumers to forage in different areas of beverages is really being met by this category.”
Driving additional growth
Manufacturers can further drive consumption of green tea by developing the flavors to be more appealing to a broader set of Americans, Goggie said.
“Green tea, as I mentioned, can be very polarizing” with people either loving or hating it, Goggi said.
To make the beverage a more accessible to Americans’ palates, he explained, some manufacturers are softening its flavor by adding other flavors, such as lemon, peach, orange or chamomile.
“The manufacturers are really trying to make the flavor of green tea easily accessible by a consumer” with the goal that “they will start from there and go to other types of tea,” Goggi said.
“Hopefully,” he added, more Americans eventually will make their way to pure green tea, “which is absolutely fabulous on its own.”