Specialty tea or coffee, who will win the race?

Posted on 24 may 2016

We’ve been talking a lot about coffee this month, but there’s another player making a move in the sidelines, and according to some research, may finish in first place.

Coffee - the hare

A lot like its kick, coffee is both bold in flavor and personality. Having long hogged the podium and the spotlight, the hare has a cult following in the Canadian market and appears to never slow the pace.

Tea - the tortoise

A lot like our friend the tortoise, tea is slow, subtle and unlike coffee has typically avoided the spotlight until now. Whether it can be attributed to its reported health benefits or a more delicate flavor, specialty tea is attracting a wide audience. In fact last year, Foodservice and Hospitality magazine named tea as one of the five hottest trends for 2015.

Coffee, take note!

So who is going to win the race? A federal government study says by 2020, our nationwide tea consumption is expected to grow by 40 per cent, outpacing growth of coffee (wait, what?), soft drinks and alcohol consumption. The Canadian Food Trends to 2020 paper was commissioned by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to track and predict food trends.

But despite the rise of specialty tea, coffee shops, it doesn’t have to be bad news! Offering a range of specialty tea can boost your profit by capturing a new audience and expanding your existing menu. And unlike other food trends that may require a kitchen equipment overhaul, tea doesn’t typically require extensive commercial equipment. With a few small extras, your current coffee equipment can help you work to complement your offering and widen your audience.

So where has the tortoise been hiding until now? According to consumer research company Nielsen, as of last year, Canadians were already spending $403 million on tea in grocery stores showing tea is predominantly consumed in the home, meaning huge potential in the café space. As the workforce becomes more mobilized, more and more people head out of the home for a cup. A lot like coffee, tea is now opening the door to a movement in the local community, out of the home.

Interestingly leading team tortoise are the Maritimes. It could be the brisk winds off the Atlantic, or perhaps more likely the English influence, the Maritimes are reported as having the highest consumption of tea at 9.8 cups per week. That’s a big jump against a current Canadian average of 6.

So wait up macchiato! There’s a strong market for slow and steady too. Cafes, we suggest taking advantage of specialty tea, expand your beverage menu and hedge your bets!