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Healthy new ice tea trend: focus on naturalness and new worlds of flavour

Released: 03/09/2012 07:30:22
Read 1756 times

A sophisticated and refreshingly different new trend is making an appearance. Enterprising tea bars are serving up tea in inventive combinations. Their target clientele is modern, active consumers who seek out products with high-quality, healthy ingredients, and who at the same time are adventurous with food, like to enjoy what they eat, and are keen to try out new and unusual beverages.

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After the coffee-to-go phenomenon, modern tea drinks to go are also taking off – served iced, they are as creative and refreshing as a classic cocktail. “Even the major premium manufacturers are starting to present ice tea as a whole new product: it’s all about naturalness”, says Norman Gierow, Global Market Segment Manager at SIG Combibloc. Gierow believes that in the non-carbonated RTD (ready-to-drink) teas sector, exotic new worlds of flavour are set to open up. RTD teas from tealeaves, flowers, herbs, fruit and spices – these ‘cocktails’ of pure ingredients are getting more and more creative, and have the potential to revitalize the market.

“The culture of tea-drinking has a history stretching back thousands of years. But the fact that this culture has always been dynamic, picking up new influences throughout its history, is the reason for its enduring success”, says Norman Gierow. The market for ready-to-drink teas has been enjoying positive growth for many years, particularly in Asia. World-wide, in 2011 around 29.5 billion litres of non-carbonated RTD teas were drunk. Sales of RTD tea are especially high in countries where drinking tea is a deep-rooted part of traditional culture. Alongside Asia, North America has recently re-emerged as a significant driver for the positive growth in the RTD teas sector. Experts expect the healthy growth in this sector to continue. The global annual growth rate for 2011 to 2015 is forecast at around 8.7 per cent.

Ice tea has a history of its own. Iced tea drinks are thought to have been introduced to a wide audience for the first time in 1904, at the World’s Fair in St Louis. Richard Blechynden, a British tea merchant selling Indian tea at the Fair, wanted to popularise black tea among the Americans. At the time, the main variety known there was green tea. Fearing that, given the summer temperatures, hot tea would find few takers, Blechynden had his tea chilled. From there, the idea of iced tea drinks spread quickly and ice tea became more and more popular. According to historical cookbooks, though, the first recipes for preparing cold tea were already around as far back as the early 19th century, long before the World’s Fair.

Recipes for ice tea typically specify freshly brewed black tea as the basis, chilled with ice cubes immediately after steeping and enhanced with lemon juice and sugar. The cooling with ice cubes is a key step because black tea, which cools only slowly at ambient temperature, tends to develop a bitter taste. Rapid cooling with ice prevents this bitter tang. Nowadays, black tea is far from being the only variety that is used as a basis for ice tea. Depending on the consumer’s tastes, any tea variety can be served chilled. A glance at the ‘cocktail menus’ of the hip new tea bars that are currently springing up for example in North America shows a dazzling variety of creations, such as white tea with Acai berries and fizzy lemonade, hibiscus blossom with cherry and sweet vanilla, green tea with ginger and vanilla, and a raft of other unusual blends. “In the future, we’re set to find comparable high-quality infusions − refreshing, energising and made from pure, natural ingredients − among the RTD teas as well”, Norman Gierow believes. The trend is already emerging.

Pure tea infusions
‘Favorit’ brand ready-to-drink premium ice teas manufactured by Swiss firm Bischofszell Food Ltd. are a good example of this. No tea granules are used to make these teas – just real, freshly brewed black, green and herbal teas. The pure tea infusions are enhanced with fruit juice. Norman Gierow sees this product range as a forerunner for the emergence of a new generation of ice tea drinks that are exceptionally authentic, and also have the potential to appeal to health-conscious consumers.

Martin Drexel, Export and Brand Manager at Bischofszell Food Ltd., says: “Ice tea drinks that have been made to simple recipes, and use fresh, naturally pure teas as their basis, taste best. That’s essentially what we’re doing when we make our ‘Favorit’ ice teas”. The premium ice teas made with real, freshly brewed tea are available in the aseptic carton pack combifitPremium with screw cap in Green Tea, Lemon and Peach (both with black tea basis) and Alpine Herbs varieties. The products are for sale in Europe and in the USA, Canada, Australia and Mexico.

Gierow: “We believe that in the future we’ll be seeing a lot more ice tea creations like these appearing on the market – drinks in which flavour, fresh, natural ingredients and just a little added sweetness combine to create a beverage of incomparable authenticity. Inspired by the success and the ideas of the new tea bars, unusual, premium ice tea creations will be coming along that are a million miles away from the character of the classic sweetened ice tea drinks”.

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