“Cold brew coffee maybe has a two or three-year head start on the cold brew tea segment, which is certainly nascent with only a couple of brand offerings available currently and nothing else in the premium space besides our new line,” but it has the potential to grow just as quickly and become a major force in the tea segment, Mike Ginal, VP of national sales for Argo Tea, told FoodNavigator-USA.
Indeed, he predicts consumers will quickly embrace cold brew tea as a smoother, more flavorful and healthier alternative to traditionally brewed teas that are sweetened.
“Cold brewing really brings out the best flavors of the teas,” which is why Argo uses only single-estate tea leaves sourced directly from “the best tea growers in some of the best tea growing regions around the world,” Ginal said.
“The whole point of cold brewing is to bring out the flavors of the tea leaves” and by not blending leaves from different locations, Argo delivers a purer and more authentic taste experience, he explained, noting the line currently includes three organic options, including First Flush Darjeeling from the Ambootia Tea Garden in India, First Flush Gyokuro from the Yamaguchi Tea Estate in Japan, and Armenian Mint from the Central Europe and the Mediterranean Basin.
In addition, Ginal said, cold-brewing tea mellows out the beverage’s bitter notes that can be off-putting to some consumers or prompt them to reach for heavily sweetened versions that have higher calorie counts than unsweetened options, Ginal said.
As such, he explained, Argo found through extensive consumer testing at its cafes, that it only needed to add “a very light amount of Fair Trade pure cane sugar for a hint of sweetness that helps bring out the natural sweetness of the leaves.”
Because the company does not need to add as much sugar as it does to bottles of its traditionally hot brewed tea, the cold-brew tea has only 20 calories per 13.5-ounce bottle compared to 70 calories per the same size bottle of the company’s traditionally hot brewed tea.
“The hint of sweetness gives the tea a great refreshment and mouth feel versus a 100% unsweetened tea,” he added.
Plus, because the cold-brew requires less sugar, “it is actually exempt from a lot of the sugary beverage tax laws that are comping out,” which could make it more appealing from a price perspective to consumers, he said.
In addition to being arguably healthier for consumers, at least one of the teas also is healthier for the planet.
The First Flush Darjeeling is a blend of organic and biodynamic Darjeeling black tea, which is Demeter-certified, Ginal said.
He explained that Demeter-certified farmers treat their farms “like a living organism” and hold their products, and the production process, to a standard that is “one step beyond organic.”
He adds that the standard, while not as well recognized as organic, is recognized by “those consumers who are always on the cusp of what is next … as a way to create a more sustainable Earth.”
Argo reformulates Teapucchinos
The new line of cold-brew tea complements an existing extensive line of ready-to-drink traditionally brewed tea and a newer line of more indulgent Teapucchinos, which Argo is currently revamping and expanding.
“In our cafes we sell essentially tea lattes made with milk that have been top-sellers for years,” and Argo recently decided to bottle that success in a line of ready-to-drink products, Ginal said.
While an early version of the bottled Teapucchinos, which were available on a limited basis, used dairy milk, Argo decided to reformulate to use almond milk instead after seeing the high consumer demand and sales success of plant-based milks, Ginal said.
“We have seen emerging in a big way at our cafes consumers who are on the front lines of health and wellness trends shifting their milk preferences from dairy to plant-based for taste preferences and health reasons,” he said. “We wanted to take advantage of that.”
Along with the reformulation, the company is launching two new flavors – Matcha Vanilla and Matte Latte – to complement its existing options, which include Chai, Earl Gray Vanilla and Green Tea Strawberry, Ginal said.
“The other thing we are doing is we are moving the entire line of Teapucchinos to a glass bottle, which we use for our other ready-to-drink offerings, for a more premium experience” than was available in the previous container, he said.
Ultimately, all of these changes represented the next steps in the health and wellness trend and specialty premium tea, which are the main growth drivers in the tea segment currently, Ginal said, adding, “consumers are excited about these changes.”