First off, a look at last year’s predictions to see if they came true:
1. Organic and Certified Organic. True-ish. Although I have no statistics to prove the trend, I observe more web tea retailers are distinguishing between “certified organic” when possible. A Stanford study this year also revealed consumer confusion about the benefits of organic foods, including tea. Organic foods are not about increased nutrition, but about reduced contamination.
2. Harvest date on package. Yes. Vanguards like Steven Smith Teamaker add a batch number on each package, and allow you go online (broken link) and find sourcing information on each box of tea purchased.
3. TRFK306/1, a.k.a. Kenyan purple tea. (broken link) A miss. This was a minor blip on the tea radar.
4. Loose leaf teas as slow-food, and the Occupy Wall Street of teas. A hit. This year saw the official kick-off of the Slow Tea Association. (broken link) Expect to see chapters pop-up over the next few years.
5. Retailers cage or tame their tea health claims. While this trend generally rings true, it remains a potential obstacle in the recent acquisition of Teavana by Starbucks. It appears that pesticide levels in Teavana teas were higher than Teavana was admitting to.
6. Taiwan oolong price jump, or fewer offerings. Not a significantly noticeable issue.
Predictions for 2013:
1. Starbucks’ acquisition of Teavana will lead to more unique/artisanal offerings. Teavana has/had great real estate locations and poured big $$$ into advertising on Google. Starbuck will take those strengths and improve on the culture and operations of the company. They will continue to offer tolerable cups of tea at affordable prices.
The door swings open now for boutique and focused tea purveyors to offer higher quality, more artisanal teas. It will mean special services. Don’t expect to go into a Starbucks/Teavana location and get served tea in a gaiwan, kyusu, or yixing pot. Don’t go in and expect to explore a flight of Taiwan high mountain teas. The community tea retailer will offer increasingly customized teas and services.
2. The gap between the tea blogger as short-term hobbyist and the professional tea writer will continue to expand. As a co-founder of the Association of Tea Bloggers, I have noticed that several of our earliest, more established, and more dedicated members have fallen by the wayside. Their contribution levels have dropped or disappeared. Other, perhaps more committed members have found new doors open to them, whether it be writing for magazines like Tea Magazine, book deals, or ghost writing for tea retailers. Others have ventured into tea businesses. It goes to show the increasing demand for those with tea knowledge, writing skills, and business sense.