Sharing Tea with the Next Generation



Tea is important to many of us for its great many health benefits, array of tastes, aromas and flavours, and deep roots in many of the world’s greatest cultures. For us tea drinkers, a world without tea sounds like a world without character and without colour. A bland world indeed. It is tea that enriches so many of our lives and contributes so greatly to our collective wellbeing. For the lover of tea, living without the beverage is living with boredom and without excitement. Because tea is such an important part of our lives as tea drinkers, it’s important that we take the time as a community to ensure that tea has a place in the future. We must make sure as a community without any measure of doubt that tea is not lost to the sands of time and we must take the time to guarantee that it is taken up, preserved, protected and enjoyed by the next generation. Doing so will give us the peace of mind that comes with knowing that tea – which is for many of us a great source of pleasure and joy – will continue to be a great source of pleasure and joy for decades, and indeed centuries to come. It is no secret that tea’s popularity is beginning to dwindle among younger demographics of consumers. Young people in general seem less interested in tea and are increasingly interested in unhealthy, sugary beverages instead. Sodas, energy drinks, and coffees loaded with sweeteners make up the basis of the drinking habits of young people today. This poses an interesting challenge to us, the tea drinking community. It gives us the task of winning over youth to our cause – winning them over to the world of tea. The task unfortunately, like anything truly worth doing, is more easily said than done. Winning young people over to enjoy tea as part of their daily lives cannot be effectively accomplished until we first understand what it is that drives the young person and what it is they desire most from their pursuits and pastimes. To solve this dilemma I submit that youth today are no different from youth throughout time and to solve the question about today’s youth, we can examine the youth of the past. In doing so we can conclude that that the desire to cut their own paths, to understand themselves on a deep and profound level and to find meaning in their own lives is what drives the young people of both today and yesterday in nearly everything they do. Tea can be a valuable outlet that serves these desires in young people. Understanding this, we can take three key steps to ensure that tea is successfully passed on to the next generation. The first of these three key steps is portraying tea as a way to connect with the inner self and find deeper meaning in life. The second is to demonstrate that tea can be a delicious, healthy alternative to sodas and energy drinks. The final step is is to show that high quality, whole leaf tea is far more enjoyable than the tea bags of bitter dust that more likely than not have formed the basis of the young person’s experience in tea to date.

With the near constant stimulation derived from the perpetual use of devices such as smartphones and computers, young people today feel as though they are being pulled in multiple directions. The constant connectivity to the outside world has allowed them to forget their own, internal and immediate world. It is a myth that the young person does not want to return to a more mindful lifestyle filled with enriched experiences. It’s a myth that all young people want to do is sit idly by as their lives pass before them. They want to feel connected to who they are and how they relate to the world. We can plainly see the desire of young people to lead more simple, more mindful lives in the trends they support today. Popular and booming activities like Yoga and Meditation are at an all time high in popularity among people under the age of 30, pointing to the desire to be less entrenched in the digital world and more rooted in the present moment. This endows older tea drinkers with a clear way to promote tea among younger consumers; marketing tea as a way to reach heightened mindfulness and increased connectivity to the self. This can be done in a number of ways, each method resulting in a varying level of success. I would argue that the two most promising ways to restore tea to its place of popularity among youth demographics is to first portray it alongside already popular trends for young people, and second argue for its effectiveness as a stand alone meditation exercise. The former can most easily be executed through the strategic use of social media than through any other means. By showing cups of tea alongside yoga mats and mala beads (along with any other such instruments of a mindful lifestyle) we cement for tea a place within that very lifestyle. We can all do our part in this social media mission by posting these types of pictures on our own social media accounts. Not only will it support and promote the healthy practice of yoga and meditation in the tea community, but it also promotes tea drinking within the yoga community. Furthermore, tea can serve as its own, stand-alone meditation practice. By being present with the experience of drinking tea in the present moment, tea drinkers can be brought easily into contact with themselves, and how they relate to the present moment and the world. In sharing this with the next generation, we encourage them to take up tea and incorporate it into their own practices, thereby passing on tea for future enjoyment.

Of course, it is completely erroneous and naive to assume that any method of tea promotion through means of trend association and meditation would be successful without first ensuring that the tea being promoted is of decent quality. To gain any modicum of effectiveness in our quest of passing tea on to subsequent generations, we must first rid ourselves of the ignoble dust-filled teabag. Teabags (I mean to say bitter tea bags in the traditional sense that contain mere fannings from the tea process, not tea bags that offer the same high level of convenience but with whole leaf and high quality tea.) constitute the majority of the tea industry’s volume of sales which is dangerous for the tea industry, as they are likely to turn away the younger demographic. Anyone who has ever been a consumer of these tea bags before making the switch to loose leaf tea will know that the tea bag’s resulting beverage is an unpleasant one unless generously cut with milk and sugar. As such, a young person who’s first impression of tea is indeed likely to be the bitter tea bag (seeing as it’s what is most commonly available in supermarkets and the like) may in fact be turned off tea altogether, never again showing an interest in returning to the beverage. Therefore, we must make our best effort at taking strides to make high quality, whole leaf tea commonly available to those young people who may become future tea drinkers themselves. At Herbal Republic, this is something we have aimed to do since our very beginning. We strive to make available the highest quality tea at the most affordable prices possible to our customers. In doing this, we build a stronger relationship with the people we serve and we give them the best possible chance of making the enjoyment of tea a part of their lifestyles for the long term. We as a community understand the vital importance of exposing young people to good tea before they have a chance to even think about reaching for those boxes of teabags in the supermarket. Even so, the question arises, how best to give young people access to good tea? The answer, luckily enough for us, is simple. We must share good tea and the roads to attain it both in person and via the internet. I’m not suggesting by any means that people can be forced into taking the leap of faith required to try looseleaf for the first time, however by making the cadre for their future venture into the hobby possible in the first place, we give ourselves the greatest probability of successfully passing down our passion.

Once we have successfully made great tea readily available to young people, we must then move on to begin the work of proclaiming and promoting its health benefits. Young people today are, on the whole, more health conscious than their parents were at the same age. This is not only a positive sign for modern society, but a good sign for the future of the tea industry. Many tea drinkers are already fully aware of tea’s many astounding health benefits after having experienced themselves. We have been tasked, as guardians of the industry and of the hobby, with extolling its health virtues to the public. With multiple studies and numerous pieces of hard, scientific evidence at our disposal, the resources we need to spread tea as an enhancer of health abound. While it is true that young people today are more health conscious than their parents, that is not to say that they are healthier. There remains a plague on the health of young people that costs millions of dollars in healthcare and is often linked to causing lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. This plague is the sugary beverage. Sodas, juices, sweetened smoothies, and even sweetened teas and coffees put the health of millions at risk. Luckily, tea is a great replacement for these beverages, so long of course as it’s unsweetened. Therefore, through advocating for tea to replace the consumption of sugary beverages, we may in fact save the lives of many members of the younger generation in trying to share our hobby with them. Hopefully, young people will be able to plainly see the health benefits of drinking tea on a regular basis and seek it out for themselves and incorporate it into their own lives.

All in all, in order to ensure the long term prosperity of both the tea community and industry, we must be willing to work towards the goal of passing tea onto the next generation. Instilling a passion for tea in young people can best accomplished by linking tea and popular trends together, by ensuring that young people have access to tea of decent quality, and by sharing the benefits that tea has on the health of the human body. In doing these three things, we will enrich the lives of millions of young people while giving our hobby and passion the greatest overall chance at a prosperous future.