Colombo: Faced with falling prices and competition from coffee growers, global tea producers are being stirred into action to boost their image in order to regain consumers in the cut-throat beverage market.
Tea, the world’s most consumed drink after water, is seen as an “old ladies’ drink” and is being abandoned by youngsters who pay top dollar for trendy coffees such as mochas and frothy cappuccinos, industry officials say.
“Producing countries need to make tea more fashionable, by highlighting its health benefits, put out products like tea-laced biscuits, cakes, (also) perhaps a line of merchandise,” said US Tea Association president Joe Simrany.
Big producers such as Sri Lanka, Kenya and India have failed to add more value to the brew, leaving tea trailing behind coffee in the 70-billion-dollar global hot drinks market, according to a recent industry meeting here.
Simrany said 85 percent of the tea annually sold in America is consumed as iced tea.
“Iced tea drinks are bringing vitality to the drink, showing youngsters the world over that tea isn’t your grandma’s beverage anymore,” said Pearl Dexter, editor of the US-based Tea A Magazine.
Americans still prefer coffee, but attitudes are changing with convenience stores stocking up on a range of ready-to-drink and premium gourmet teas.
But more needs to be done in terms of branding and raising quality standards, Simrany said.
Tea barons in India, the world’s second biggest producer after China, have begun to replace their ageing tea gardens with high-yielding clones to boost production and improve quality.