INCREASED health benefits, more variety and new twists on an ancient tradition has seen the popularity of tea gather steam in Australia.
Research has shown tea has many health benefits, from lowering blood sugar and cholesterol to reducing the risk of heart disease.
Yet for the last four decades Australians have chosen coffee over tea, which is the second-most popular beverage in the world after water.
Sunshine Coast accountant Stephen Zhu, originally from China, said that when he first came to Australia, he had noticed tea was not very popular.
“I would often see people buying coffee in cafes, but rarely tea,” Mr Zhu said.
“Yet in China, it's common to see people drinking tea.
“It's just part of the culture.
“The Chinese have believed for a long time that it's good for head-aches, stomach aches and many other sicknesses.”
The perception of tea as a bland hot drink is slowly changing as more varieties and new blends are becoming available in Australia.
“I think people in Australia are learning more about different kinds of teas and want to try them,” Mr Zhu said.
Oolong, green, white, Rooibus and Pur-eh teas, which have been popular in other countries for centuries, are now becoming more widely available in Australia due to demand.
The Silva Spoon Tea and Coffee Emporium manager-owner Gina da Silva said many people were visiting the shop to ask about different varieties of teas, as well as the benefits.
“We have teas to help with everything, from anxiety to protecting the liver,” the Cotton Tree businesswoman said.
Rooibos tea from South Africa has become increasingly popular in Australia over the last decade, not just for its distinctive taste but also for its high antioxidant levels.
Miss da Silva said Rooibos, which translates to red bush, helped with many ailments including aiding digestion, improving memory and relaxing.
Oolong tea also gained popularity a few years ago when reports about its ability to aid weight loss were highly publicised.
“Oolong is great for boosting the metabolism, as is Pu-reh,” Miss da Silva said. “They both have a lot of other health benefits, too.”
Tea shops in Australia are now infusing different teas with a range of roots, leaves and herbs to create new, unique flavours and add even more health benefits.
“The options for blends are endless,” Miss da Silva said.
“If I had space, I'd have a hundred more teas.”
She said the variety of flavours available and increased knowledge of the benefits had encouraged more people to try tea.
“Even people who thought they didn't like tea are finding blends they enjoy,” she said.
“There's something to suit every need when it comes to tea.”
Miss da Silva said trying new teas and different blends had become more fashionable, especially with those looking for a healthier alternative to coffee.
“It's become a culture within itself,” she said.
Tea consumption in Australia stands at 0.8 kg per annum per capita but this is set to rise.
Datamonitor's report, Hot Drinks in Australia to 2013, said the Australian tea market was expected to reach a value of $473 million in 2013.
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