Tea takes you to places. Literally. So I ended up visiting Dubai to attend the Gulfood Festival and to witness what’s happening for our favourite drink all around the world. And what an experience it was!
The Gulfood Festival was held at the Dubai Trade Center (18th to 22 February 2018) which with over 1.3 million square feet of covered exhibition and event space, 21 halls, over 40 meeting rooms across 3 floors, and hosting over 500 events annually – is a very impressive infrastructure. I couldn’t visit all the halls and exhibition areas even in 5 days. So instead, I simply remained at the beverages section enjoying the many intertwined aromas of tea, coffee, juices, health drinks etc and experiencing the bustling activities around.
As expected the tea section was dominated by the Sri Lankan and the Indian tea companies. The tea boards of both the countries were present, along with a host of small tea brands who participated under these two tea boards. There were also quite a few large tea companies who were there independently and had large spaces displaying their variety of teas. I was not surprised to find Dilmah, the very reputed Tea Brand from Sri Lanka, occupying one of the largest booths.
I found that the Sri Lankan Tea companies were displaying lot more functional teas with herbs, flowers, and spice blends, while the Indian tea companies where primarily focusing on pure orthodox or CTC teas and some tea mixes (No!). The green tea, which is growing strong with its positioning as a health drink, was one of the most discussed teas; while I also found a few matcha tea booths offering interesting innovations. There were no Chinese or Japanese tea representations, though. But I did found teas from Kenya and Vietnam (collected samples from them – they looked and smelled really nice); and found Argentine mate making inroads into Indian market as a direct competition to green tea. Mate, which is actually a herb, is the national infusion of both Argentina and Uruguay.
Tea trends in 2018
Based on my 5 day visit and after talking to quite a few tea suppliers from India, Sri Lanka, Kenya; buyers from UAE, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Russia (and others); tea brands from North America, Europe and Asia, here are my top 5 trends for tea in 2018:
- Teas with functional ingredients are going to be the next big trend, primarily riding on the health benefit platform that most teas – particularly green teas – are offered with.
- Herbal Teas are becoming very popular for the European and the American market (USA & Canada).
- Look out for cold pressed teas.
- Healthier tea drinking options – example iced tea without sugar.
- Gourmet and specialty teas which have stories to tell.
Instead of copying the trends in coffee, which I am increasingly finding in tea, tea companies should focus on their own innovations and creativity. Tea is a more dynamic and versatile beverage as compared to coffee, therefore, imitating coffee trends for tea would be, literally, underplaying the possibilities that tea as a drink offers.
Tea is more like wine. While health is a great platform to be in for tea, tea should and must be positioned as a celebratory drink that can match every mood of one’s daily life.
Here’s to that cuppa!
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