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Bottled Tea: Convenient, But Will It Last?

April 22, 2019

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There is a trend – especially among millennials – around convenience and delivery. We are seeing the rapid rise of companies like grub hub, door dash, and uber eats providing food and grocery deliveries. This wave of delivery services, for the most part, outsources deliveries to freelance drivers. While the trend of delivery is set to rise, the economics will have to hash out because for many restaurants there is little to no profit in offering delivery because of the large cut these delivery companies take. That tap-swipe lifestyle – for better or worse – is a growing trend. And whether the economic model of having everything in quick time is sustainable remains to be seen.

With tea, the primary convenience product over the years has been bottled tea. The variety and amount has increased substantially and one can not help but feel that somewhere there is a bubble with all these bottled beverages. In fact, the Wall Street Journal analyzed many beverage companies and found that the majority will not only not make it, but many of their products are vile.

With tea, the quality and variety of “regular” bottled teas is substantially higher than a decade ago, so we decided to sample a few varieties with both mass-market brands such as Teavana and some smaller boutique varieties.

The main issue with most of the varieties that we tried – be it Teavana or the Pure leaf “tea master” edition – is that they have way too much sugar. The unsweetened ones were preferred, but they still didn’t taste fresh compared to making your own. In a pinch, it’s better than soda. But you’re better off cold-brewing your own iced tea in a tumbler for daily use rather than buying bottled iced tea.

Remember folgers crystals? If you are under 30 you won’t, but TV was awash in instant coffee ads in the ’70s and ’80s. Eventually, the gourmet coffee movement took over and the market share of instant coffee shrunk dramatically. But the same approach is being used for tea, this time marketing via social media. There are some products that market themselves as “the convenience of a bag with the taste of loose tea.” One of the varieties we looked at looked like ground tea molded into shapes. All the varieties include sugar into the mix (maybe to account for some bitterness when the entire leaf is dissolved in water?).

Besides only having a small variety of styles, the cost per serving is around $1 each. You can consume some of the rarest and expensive teas for less than half the price per serving. The question is: Are these gimmicks taking away from the true flavor and experience of tea? Why stop at tea? Why not instant wine? Are instant tea products just another subset of the beverage fad? Just recently, Greek yogurt was all the rage. Now supermarket shelves are saturated with so many styles of yogurt, that Greek sales have recently begun to decline.

Back to the original point regarding delivery. Isn’t it an experience to dine out? Would a Michelin-star-awarded chef want their food being served in cardboard? I don’t think a highly-regarded maker of Oolongs would want their product showing up in heart-shaped, sweetened tea pellets. Only time will tell if this beverage fad is here to stay.

Photo Soda aisle is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License to the photographer “Like_the_Grand_Canyon” and is being posted unaltered (source)

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