Looking for a New Niche? Specialty Tea Craze Is Heating Up

There is a gourmet tea craze creating quite a stir in the U.S. these days. Specialty tea sales are soaring in retail and specialty stores as well as food service outlets. Americans are sipping these premium varieties – and willing to pay a premium price - in both hot and cold fashion. Consumers are drinking tea for health benefits as well as for its trendiness. But it looks like this trend is here to stay.

“If anyone believes that the United States Tea Industry is not undergoing a dramatic period of change, they should take a quick tour of their local supermarket and observe what is happening. Even within this single distribution channel, change is pervasive and immediately apparent,” says Joseph P. Simrany, President of the Tea Association of the U.S. (http://www.teausa.com/).

This creates an exciting opportunity for handmade bath and body formulators. The premium tea market boasts a growing and captive audience. Although green and white teas found their way into the U.S. skincare market within the past five years thanks to their antioxidant properties, there are few products on the market incorporating premium and blended teas. Handmade beauty artisans may want to consider targeting these tea drinkers with gourmet and specialty tea-inspired products for the bath, body and home: soaps, scrubs, creams, home fragrances, perfumes, body butters and facial products.

Even celebrities such as Donald Trump, Lady Gaga and Padma Lakshmi have introduced their own tea lines. Trump Tea, an organic line, is simply composed of four premium blends named after historic areas in New York. Trump follows the money– and he surely knows that tea sales in the U.S. are expected to grow to nearly $15 billion in 2012 from its current $7.77 billion, according to the Tea Association of the U.S. Trump’s line of teas was created by the premium tea master at Talbott Teas (deemed a “Favorite Things”, nonetheless, by Oprah Winfrey).

Estimated Wholesale Value of U.S. Tea Industry
  • 1990 - $1.84 billion total sales
  • 2010 - $7.77 billion total sales
  • 2012 - $15 billion total sales
Source: Tea Association of the United States

Of the nearly $8 billion in tea sales from last year, specialty or premium teas comprise 36 percent of the market and are predicted to rise to 50 percent of all sales, according to Tea and Ready-to-Drink Tea in U.S. by Packaged Facts. Therein lies the potential to uncover for bath and body products. Imagine creating exotic blends with rooibos (red tea from South Africa), acai (from Amazon rainforests of Brazil), chai, oolong, cocoa, vanilla and green tea varieties from Japan and China (powdered Matcha, dragonwell, and gunpowder), just to name a few.

The sky is the limit when it comes to incorporating gourmet teas into products for the bath, body and home. For example, ground loose teas or components can be ground and added in small amounts to sugar or salt scrubs. Cream and lotions, on the other hand, can be formulated with tea-infused water or oil. Ground teas and their infusions can also be added to melt and pour as well as cold process soaps. These can be complemented with tea-inspired fragrance oils such as Wholesale Supplies Plus Lemongrass Green Tea, Green Tea and Cucumber, Blackberry Sage Tea or White Tea and Ginger. Try blending fragrances to create your own exotic scent.

Ready to get those creative juices going? Check online gourmet tea websites by simply searching for “gourmet tea” to gain further insight into popular loose tea blends and the manner in which teas are marketed to consumers. Further statistics on the tea industry can be found through the Tea Association of the U.S., Tea Expo, and the Specialty Tea Institute. Sales are just starting to soar, which means it could be the perfect time to jump into this niche.


Marla Bosworth is the CEO and Founder of Back Porch Soap Company, (http://www.backporchsoap.com) She teaches group and private classes on how to make natural skincare products in Boston and NYC. Ms. Bosworth also provides product, brand and marketing strategies for handmade beauty companies.  Marla writes this feature article exclusively for Debbie May (http://www.debbiemay.com/), an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.