Growing consumer demand for tea in its many forms — e.g., bold varieties like Chinese Lapsang, gut-focused kombucha and hard tea as a healthier alcoholic libation — creates significant opportunities for beverage brands to create new offerings.

PART I: Time for Tea to Make Its Way Into Alcoholic Beverages

As discussed in Part I of this series, younger consumers are driving the demand for healthy beverages like tea. When they unwind with an alcoholic beverage, they still often want relatively healthy drinks, for which hard tea and tea-based cocktails fit right in.

Yet brands can go beyond offering hard iced tea that uses generic black tea as a base. The universe of flavors within the tea category can be tapped to create exciting offerings, whether served as a bottled beverage, a craft cocktail or a non-alcoholic beverage that plays on classic boozy flavors.

Finding the Right Flavors

While different varieties of tea can be used to create flavorful drinks, particularly when paired with complementary ingredients like fruits and spices, brands looking to tap into the hard tea market shouldn’t go overboard with flavor. The key is finding the happy medium between plain tea and rare, exotic flavors.

To find this balance, consider the hard seltzer market as a guide, advises research firm Mintel. Approachable flavors like lime, raspberry and watermelon do well in the hard seltzer market, whereas more unique flavors like goji berry paired with hard tea have not performed as well.

Hard seltzer also often comes in variety packs that lend themselves well to socializing and trying new flavors, notes Mintel. Hard tea could similarly offer variety packs with tropical, refreshing flavors that pair well with tea, like peach or mango. Plus, considering 42% of U.S. consumers say the ideal flavored alcoholic beverage is for drinking in the summer, according to Mintel, these flavors play well in the summer sun.

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Creating Innovative Alcoholic Tea Drinks

In addition to offering hard tea varieties in a manner similar to hard seltzer, beverage brands can also create their own alcoholic tea drinks. These drinks can incorporate mainstream flavors but still entice customers with something new.

For example, restaurants and cafes have newly introduced alcoholic bubble tea. SMÖÖbar, a fast-casual restaurant in Singapore, recently came out with nine alcoholic bubble tea varieties, including one that evokes a Long Island iced tea cocktail, reports Trend Hunter. Similarly, Bean + Pearl, a bubble tea and coffee shop in Toronto, recently introduced Boozy Boba, with flavors like mango rum tea.

However, not all offerings have to actually contain alcohol, with younger consumers often opting for low- or no-alcohol beverages. Tazo Tea, for example, recently introduced non-alcoholic tea/juice concentrates based on mixology flavors. These include a berry hibiscus margarita flavor and ginger lime Moscow mule, notes Trend Hunter.

Kombucha can also play up or down its alcohol content. Some clock in at just trace amounts, while others come in at around 4-5% ABV, similar to a standard beer. However, considering that many craft beers like IPAs have even higher ABVs, hard kombucha could be seen as a relatively low alcohol, healthy option. And these drinks can include refreshing flavors associated with health like ginger and lemon. At the same time, high-alcohol kombucha offerings have also emerged, with some as high as 10% ABV. So there’s something for everyone within this category.

The Future of Tea Is Wide Open

With so many flavor options within tea itself and with complementary ingredients, tea holds so many possibilities for beverage brands. For now, mainstream flavors can be a great entry point into the hard tea market, similar to hard seltzer, and perhaps down the road consumers will be more open to unique, premium flavors.

Moreover, your brands can continue to explore the health benefits of tea and market these effects within everything from tea-based cocktails to low-alcohol kombucha. Tea may be thousands of years old, but the future of tea still looks exciting.

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