This theme comes up so often that I had to check whether I’ve written about it here.  Nope; I wrote a blog post about tea popularity and tea cults some months back, and only drifted into it a little there. This article from that time frame claims that “Artisanal Tea in America Is Having a Moment,” which I think has been addressed here at T Ching by different authors across varying scope.  This more recent article claims that “There is No Craft Tea Movement in America (Yet).”  So which is it? It’s possible that both could be right, seen from two different points of view.  My input in that blog post was that it’s not the case (no “moment”), but from within a narrow interest group — related to increasing exposure among a small set of people — awareness and demand is ramping up.  Probably some vendors are experiencing good sales growth, and new sources certainly keep entering the market.  I write about new developments and options all the time in my blog, and people read that (Tea in the Ancient World).

Compressed black tea from Laos; new forms keep turning up

There won’t be space here to break apart both sets of claims, to fully place it all.  It would work to only consider the “why not” side, from the second article cited:

…Walk into your local grocery store, and you can choose among Fair Trade Certified, single-origin beans from Ethiopia, Costa Rica or Peru. Now in its third or fourth wave, depending on whom you ask, craft coffee culture is everywhere.

Whither craft tea? While many Americans do indeed brew and drink tea, it has yet to experience a 21st century “craft” revolution, the kind that launches national chains and inspires financial analysts to rant about millennials’ spending habits…

So there’s the difference: At the local-specialty-grocery-store-level tea is very likely to be underrepresented, while coffee isn’t.  That’s probably accurate.  To cite a related example, the main national tea outlet chain, Teavana — owned by Starbucks — was closed about two years ago.  More recently, Unilever has been reported as considering getting out of the tea industry (owner of Lipton, PG Tips, Tazo, and the T2 chain), although they did just officially deny other related reporting two months ago, so who knows.

Where I live — in Bangkok — the limitation in demand and awareness stands out more than development of that range does, but there are a few specialty cafes that serve as exceptions.

bubble tea and elaborate pour-over flavored tea versions are more popular in Bangkok

That article cites awareness as the main issue, along with prepared tea not being as well-suited for fast production and distribution or as high in caffeine level.  The awareness part seems right: Even among tea interest groups on Facebook some people explore broadly and deeply related to tea types and culture (as in the Gong Fu Cha group), and others emphasize focus on flavored blends or teabag version consumption (as in the Tea Drinkers group).  I comment in both, and also helped co-found an even larger themed group there, International Tea Talk, so that continuum is familiar.  Artisanal or craft tea demand (or specialty tea – how I tend to phrase that) probably isn’t as common as interest in blends and flavored tea.

From the perspective of a tea enthusiast, maybe more people should learn about and appreciate better tea; because it is a diverse, pleasant, healthy, and exceptional value beverage choice.  Or maybe they shouldn’t, according to some – for rarer tea types only so much is produced (or had been made in the past, related to aged teas), and increasing demand may increase pricing levels.  I tend to also support producer interests, and think that expanded production could accommodate higher demand; so I don’t worry about that part.  General interest and demand ramps up so slowly that it’s largely a non-issue anyway.

I’ll keep supporting tea awareness — as others do — and it seems likely that at some point it will “take off,” and seem more like a movement.

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