- Associated Press - Sunday, March 19, 2017

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) - Coffee might be America’s cup of tea, but industry experts say demand for another hot beverage is surging.

During the past 10 years, ready-to-drink tea sales have grown more than 15-fold, according to the Tea Association of the USA Inc.

Hot tea consumption also has been on the rise, with a 15 percent increase in sales during the past five years, the Telegraph Herald (https://bit.ly/2mPxhk2 ) reported.

Peter Goggi, president of the Tea Association of the USA, said growth in the demand for tea is outpacing most drinks on the market. And, it’s a trend he doesn’t see slowing anytime soon.

“There’s definitely still room to grow,” Goggi said. “Americans still don’t consume as much tea per person as other countries, but we’re expecting that to rise as well.”

It’s a trend local business owners have witnessed firsthand.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in the past few years,” said Kasey Jansen, owner of Monk’s Kaffee Pub in Dubuque. “Each year seems to be getting a little better with our tea sales.”

The rise in tea sales can largely be attributed to the increasing demand for healthier options, Goggi said. Tea, in addition to tasting good, is good for the body, he said.

“It’s something that you’re especially seeing in millennials,” Goggi said. “They’re seeing the health benefits, and more and more of them are jumping to tea.”

The increasing interest in tea has inspired many local cafes to grow their tea options.

Sara Post, owner of Inspire Cafe at the Schmid Innovation Center in Dubuque, said tea has steadily increased in popularity since she opened in 2014. Customers have requested more options and are more discerning in their tea choices, she said.

“People are wanting the healthiest, most high-quality tea that they can get,” Post said. “People are asking what brand of teas that we have, which is something that we previously didn’t get to often.”

To meet the rising demand, Inspire Cafe has increased its selection and has experimented with different methods of selling tea.

Their most recent venture, called English afternoon tea, allows customers to experience a traditional tea party, complete with finger sandwiches, desserts and - of course - tea.

Tea parties occur from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Post said reservations for afternoon tea are usually completely booked weeks in advance.

“It’s been a huge success for us,” Post said. “It really shows how tea has grown in popularity, and these types of events just take advantage of that.”

Amy Steiner opened Exploring Tea in Dubuque, which sells unmixed tea by the ounce, in mid-August. She said business has exceeded her expectations.

“I wondered if there would be enough interest to have a tea business in Dubuque, which is why I added some other health-based products,” Steiner said. “A person I know who has been in the tea business for over 25 years has information about how well a new tea shop should do, and my shop is beating those numbers.”

Another part of tea’s appeal is its ability to adapt to fit the seasons.

“In the summer everyone wants iced tea, but in the winter, everyone goes over to hot tea,” Post said. “It’s part of what’s great about tea is that there is always a tea for someone.”

Black tea remains the most popular option for tea drinkers. However, green tea, which is considered healthier, is rising in popularity.

“Green tea has started to take off,” Goggi said. “It’s generally healthier, so that has been a big attraction factor.”

Overall, Tea Association of the USA statistics show the U.S. is the only country in the world in which tea is growing in popularity.

Goggi said this is mostly because tea hasn’t historically been especially popular in the U.S., despite it being the second most-popular drink in the world.

Post said Americans can expect to increasingly hear the whistle of boiling kettles.

“I think it’s something that people are really getting into,” Post said. “Tea is really popular right now, and there’s a demand to get more of it.”

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Information from: Telegraph Herald, https://www.thonline.com


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