The Changing British Tea Habit

The British government measures food consumption by distributing household diaries that reveal trends including a decrease in the consumption of tea.

Last week the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, released a study of 150,000 UK households from 1974-2000. In 1974 tea accounted for half of the nation’s daily fluid intake.

WTN150817_BritishTeaDeclines“That figure has since dropped to 37% of the national intake of fluid,” according to Bill Gorman, chairman of the UK Tea and Infusions Association. Residents of the British Isles still list tea as their number one hot beverage choice, with 84% of the country drinking tea daily. “So it is still a significant amount,” said Gorman but down dramatically from 23 cups a week.

Per capita consumption was 68 grams per week at the beginning of the survey period, dropping to 25 g. Gorman said that in 2015 consumption had declined to 21 cups per week, and “on average we are drinking three cups of tea a day.”

A spokesperson for Tetley tea told Mashable “black tea still dominates he market, but as consumers continue to look for healthy lifestyle choices, we are seeing strong growth in green tea and fruit and herbal teas with natural benefits.”

Gorman said the reason for what he describes as a “marginal decrease” stems from the wider range of beverages available, including carbonated soda, pro-biotic and yogurt-base drinks, fruit and herbal infusions and specialty teas drinks. All have have grown in popularity since the 1970s.

Ireland has experienced a similar decline, according to a report in the publication Irish Central.

“Research carried out by Bord Bia, the Irish food board, in 2010, tea is the unchanging category on Irish supermarket shelves and is still included on every good shopping list.

“In an ever changing world, tea provides much needed consistency,” said Orla Donohoe from the Consumer Foods Division at Bord Bia, revealing that 90% of Irish tea drinkers always return to the same brand of tea, never swaying from their favorite.

Such is the connection between an Irish person and their favorite brand that 59% of shoppers say they never look at the other options. “In an Irish context, tea is very much a security blanket,” Donohoe continued. “Although some Irish consumers are opening up to the possibilities of imported tea brands, familiarity and consistency of the tea experience is hugely important,” she said.

Much has changed in the years since 1974 when only 15% of English households had a freezer and quick-fix meals were largely canned. Today 94% of British homes have a freezer. In 1974 British households spent 24% of their income on food, today it is 11%, according to the survey.

Source: UK Government

Dataset: Family Food Open Data