Monday 3 February 2020 6:07 am

DEBATE: Has the classic British cup of tea fallen out of fashion?

Jeff Young is founder of the London Coffee Festival, which celebrates its tenth anniversary on 2–5 April 2020.
and Rob Nowell
Rob Nowell is marketing director at Edge by Ascential
founder, London Coffee Festival

Unilever could be selling its PG Tips and Lipton tea brands. Has the classic British cuppa fallen out of fashion?

YES, says Jeff Young, founder of the London Coffee Festival, which celebrates its tenth anniversary on 2–5 April 2020.

Britain is becoming a nation of coffee drinkers. This journey started 20 years ago with the explosion of branded coffee chains like Costa, Starbucks and Caffe Nero. The last decade saw the growth of artisan coffee and the high-quality coffee experience. 

As a nation, we still love our tea, but when it comes to the high street, coffee is undoubtedly a big thing. 

For the British consumer, tea is extremely personal and also easy to make. Coffee on the other hand has a specialness and perceived value which means that consumers are now happy to pay £3 or more for an immaculate flat white. That’s partly due to the fact that most people do not have the tools or skills to make one as well as a professional barista. 

Additionally, there is our growing love of going to coffee shops to suit an occasion, whether it is in search of a morning caffeine buzz or a chance to catch up with friends over a latte. 

Coffee is an experience that has been firmly woven into our daily lives. 

NO, says Rob Nowell, marketing director at Edge by Ascential.

Hot tea brands like PG Tips and Lipton may be feeling the strain at the moment, but we shouldn’t prophesise that this automatically signals the end of tea drinking altogether. 

It is simply the case that consumer tastes and preferences are changing and evolving. With consumers becoming more health conscious, we will witness a rise in brands moving towards healthier alternatives, such as fizzy drinks maker Lucozade, which entered the ice tea market last year with its MayTea product. 

Retailers are also spotting the potential in this market too. 

For instance, the upmarket food store Fortnum & Mason recently reported a 26 per cent rise in profits, partly driven by a surge in sales for its exclusive Sparkling Tea blend, which it developed in response to consumers’ choices to go alcohol free. 

In the meantime, let’s all sit down with a nice cuppa and wait for this furore to blow over. 

Sign up to City A.M.’s Midday Update newsletter, delivered to your inbox every lunchtime

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.