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Is Afternoon Tea the new Happy Hour? Here are the top tea trends for 2022

With the pandemic going strong for over two years now, it’s led to major shifts in our overall lifestyles. As people became accustomed to spending more time at home, so too did our eating habits and grocery hauls change over time.

One sector this change has been really evident is the tea industry. Food and beverage experts are citing 2022 as the year in which consumers prioritise products that not only deliver functional benefits but also improve personal health and wellbeing.

According to the biggest food and drink predictions announced by Pinterest, afternoon tea is set to become the new happy hour. These predictions were based on the interests of 444 million Pinterest users worldwide, many of whom chose ‘tea with a friend’ over ‘drinks after work’ in an online survey.

In addition, the prospects for the local tea industry are looking up. According to Nicie Vorster, director of the SA Rooibos Council, online searches for healthy teas, tea pairings and tea parties have spiked across all age groups.

He notes that consumers are increasingly concerned with the origin and quality of products they consume, and it’s no different for tea. “The overall demand for functional (healthy) food and drinks, like Rooibos, is gaining momentum both locally and abroad, thus the sector is expected to grow exponentially,” he says.

“In top-end retail, over the last twelve months (ending September 2021), the tea market grew 0.4% in volume to 14 kilo-tons and 3.8% in value to R2.6 billion.”

These are some of the dominant trends that are expected to dictate the tea sector in 2022:

Adaptogenic teas (wellness tea)

An adaptogen is a plant extract that is believed to increase the body’s ability to fight the damaging effects of stress and inflammation, and promotes normal physiological functioning. “Many consumers are adding complex herbal blends to their tea, like chamomile, ginger, turmeric and ginseng to further enhance the health benefits of the teas they drink. To make it easier for time-constrained consumers, many of these adaptogens have now been added to Rooibos products,” says Vorster.


Personalisation is huge, especially with customer tastes becoming more discerning. Being able to design your own tea by mixing different flavours for a unique taste and further personalising it by giving it a name, allows individuals to express themselves while satisfying their taste buds. “Customisation is a trend in consumer preferences that is sure to gain further prominence in 2022, especially among millennials – the fastest growing demographic worldwide.”

Ready-to-drink teas

RTD teas are climbing in popularity and are seen as healthier alternatives to canned or bottled fizzy drinks. Marketers are predicted to launch a greater variety of cold teas to choose from in the short- to medium term.

Tea experiences

Tea lovers will seek out restaurants and cafés that have an extensive tea menu rather than the standard one or two options. Many enjoy brewing loose leaf tea and will search for the same immersive experience at an eatery where they can indulge in unique blends and flavours. The emergence of tea pairing menus, as you would pair wine with different dishes, will also become more prominent and will attract new customers looking for a sensory experience.


A few years ago the tea subscription business model was mostly niche, but the pandemic jolted consumers out of routine purchase behaviours, propelling online sales and home delivery. “The model involves ordering tea in a variety of forms ranging from RTDs to a curated box of tea bags or loose leaf tea on a monthly or more regular basis directly to your door. Tea subscriptions are becoming more prevalent and it’s also a great way to retain and cultivate customer loyalty, which will become more critical than ever in a very competitive space,” adds Vorster.

Tea cocktails and mocktails

With the sober curios trend taking off and fewer people drinking alcohol during a night out, tea-based drinks are becoming a staple in trendy bars and pubs worldwide. “Tea makes for an ideal base ingredient and offers a much greater variety of options when it comes to mixing alcoholic and even non-alcoholic drinks. It also adds a different dimension to many favourite cocktail formats.”


Specialty and novelty teas are also becoming a popular gifting option in 2022. Tea is no longer a simple grocery item. High quality, premium tea has become a thing of sophisticated consumption. Much like aficionados will go to the ends of the earth to search for gourmet quality coffee, tea will follow in the same path. Especially, younger consumers who are eager to try new tea varieties and different brewing techniques. The trend is likely to boost sales of tea ware and accessories, such as infusers and strainers, along with gourmet teas and customised blends in fancy packaging – ideal for gifting.

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