Tea boutiques, specialty cups and the ever-growing popularity of green tea are being identified as some of the biggest trends in tea at a major expo in Las Vegas this week.
More than 4,000 delegates from 50 countries are expected at the World Tea Expo, which hosts its 10th edition this year and has been used as a launch pad for many new and innovative products and tea trends.
After doing a tea leaf reading, experts have come up with the following trends they believe will be big in 2012:
Quality tea on the rise
Consumers and retailers alike are becoming more demanding when it comes to premium, quality ingredients, experts say. People are asking more questions, looking for more labels like Fair Trade, and scrutinizing the quality of ready-to-drink products, they add, asking if tea-flavored sugar water should really be allowed to call itself tea.
Retailers are opening up more and more tea houses, giving the café-weary more interesting options. Canadian retailer DavidsTea, for instance, has expanded to the US, opening two retail stores in New York after enjoying nationwide success across Canada. The boutique sells loose leaf teas and ingredients from around the world as well as trendy new products like loose leaf cupcake tea sweetened with white chocolate pieces and rainbow sprinkles. Starbucks has also hired a tea expert, leading to speculation that the coffee giant is dabbling with expanding further into tea after launching a juice bar recently.
Perhaps its biggest and most loyal fans are health-conscious baby boomers and Millennials, huge markets which hold major purchasing power. Green tea is also cited as the No. 1 specialty tea product at restaurants and retail establishments.
Forget ‘World's Greatest Mom' mugs. Designers are coming out with special tea ware which builds on the same principle as wine glasses. Different cups are designed to release the full aromas and flavors of different teas.
Cold brew green tea
The health benefits of green tea are also spilling over to the cold drinks section, with rising demand for ready-to-drink green tea beverages -- particularly during the hot summer months.
While Canada does matcha lattes well, the trend is starting to get picked up in the US, experts say. Unlike sugar-loaded versions, the authentic beverages use high-quality Japanese Matcha blends.
The World Tea Expo starts June 1 to 3 in Las Vegas.