Millennials & Tea


Millennials & Tea header

When a new study comes out, it’s interesting to see who spins it how. YouGov released a survey last month comparing American consumption of tea with coffee. Their headline was “Coffee’s millennial problem: tea increasingly popular among young Americans.” Oh, no! A coffee problem!

World Tea News, on the other hand, reported that same survey with the headline, “America’s Youth Embrace Tea.” Oh, boy! Kids are drinking tea.

Most of the articles I read about the survey included this handy-dandy chart:

YouGov coffee v tea by age

It pretty clearly indicates that the younger you are, the more likely you are to prefer tea to coffee. The statistic I liked, on the other hand, I turned into the Venn diagram on my header for this article. Of Americans aged 18-29, 18% drink coffee, 27% drink tea, and 39% drink both (the remaining 17% don’t drink either one). In case you’re interested, 998 people were surveyed and 143 of them were in that “millennial” age range of 18-29.

I’m sure there are some people in the tea business that are saying, “This is marvelous! We just have to sit back and wait and we’re going to own this market!” Others are saying, “We really need to get people over 30 to drink more tea.” The coffee industry, of course, has known about this trend for years. That’s why Starbucks bought Tazo and Teavana.

Being a numbers geek, I decided to pull up the PDF of the full report and do a bit of digging. Here are some interesting points you might enjoy:

  • The under-30 crowd is much more likely than the older crowd to drink neither coffee nor tea.
  • Blacks are over twice as likely to drink tea only (no coffee) than whites or hispanics.
  • 64% of Republicans prefer coffee, vs 55% of Democrats and 52% of independents.
  • 33% of independents prefer tea, vs 32% of Democrats and 28% of Republicans.
  • Middle-income Americans earning $40K-$80K/year are more likely to prefer tea than higher or lower-income Americans.
  • 42% of people surveyed are trying to limit their coffee intake vs only 25% that are trying to limit tea.
  • Women are much more likely to prefer tea than men

So let’s see here. A tea shop’s target audience is young women? This comes as a surprise to absolutely nobody in the tea business.

Rapt audience at tea bar

A completely candid (you believe that, right?) shot of a typical crowd at my tea bar, waiting for me to tell them tea stories.

I confess that I didn’t expect some of these results. Since Montana is 89% white and 0.4% black, I don’t really have a statistically significant sampling to judge African-American preferences. I do see, however, quite a few Native Americans in the shop getting tea, although I haven’t tried doing any statistical analysis there.

To what do I attribute the tea-drinking millennial trend? The obvious factor is healthier lifestyles, but I would posit something else as well: younger folks are better informed about tea.

I am much more likely to hear an older person say, “I don’t like tea,” because back in their day, tea meant either a teabag full of basic Lipton black tea or the green tea at a Chinese restaurant. Millennials are more likely to have discovered tea in a tea shop that offers dozens — or hundreds — of options. That person who doesn’t like tea may never have tried masala chai, or oolong, or pu-erh, or white tea, or the huge variety of flavored, spiced, and scented options. They’ve probably never experienced the difference between that teabag full of dust and an FTGFOP-1 golden black whole-leaf tea. They may still be under the mistaken impression that latte means coffee, leaving them blissfully unaware of the wealth of tea lattes awaiting them in a good tea shop.

I’ve said many, many times that if you work in the tea business today, your primary job is education. I think this survey shows that tea education is working. Sure, we still sell your basic Earl Grey tea, but younger folks like the ladies in the picture above are well educated about their options. You’re as likely to see them sipping whole-leaf black Vietnamese tea or Indian oolong as you are a peach-flavored white tea or a sage Earl Grey (popular in our corner of Montana).

So let’s get out there and buy Grandma a great cup of tea!


 

While writing this post, I was drinking Jasmine King Silver Needle tea. It’s a delicate white tea perfectly scented with jasmine blossoms, so that you get the aroma of the jasmine and the flavor of the tea. Yes, jasmine isn’t just for green tea anymore. Hey, that’s a great tagline. Look for it as a blog post title one of these days!

About Gary D. Robson

Gary Robson: Author, tea guy, and general manager of the Billings Bookstore Cooperative. I've written books and articles on a zillion different subjects, but everyone knows me for my "Who Pooped in the Park?" books.

Posted on 13 March 2015, in Tea Biz and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I have always described it as a gap, In our tea shops we always found under 30s and over 60s drinking tea, and the midrange drinking coffee.

    • One thing the survey didn’t make clear is whether it included iced tea. Older Americans are more likely to drink coffee when they go for a hot beverage, but will still drink a large amount of iced tea.

  1. Pingback: Torture the data, and it will confess to anything - Teaconomics

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