British tea consumption has been on a steady decline since 1974. By the 1980s, tea consumption per person had dropped 20% and was down a whopping 63% by 2014 (via The Washington Post). Industry research groups speculated at the time that the cause was an image issue young consumers had with traditional black tea, the kind consumed at proper English afternoon teas. Weigh that with the branding boost from sitcoms like “Friends” that made coffee houses cool places to linger and chill with friends. Not to mention, Starbucks launched 425 stores across the United States in 1994, and in less than a decade, it was a global brand that, by 2005, had 10,241 stores worldwide (via Bloomberg). Bougie coffee concoctions, elevated by foams, caramel swirls, and milky floating designs, won the hearts of a new generation of hot beverage consumers.
However, tea is not going down is not going down without a fight. According to tea and coffee industry news website STiR, tea brands are pivoting by rolling out new flavors like green tea and matcha. “Fresh mint tea is having a moment,” Molly Hunter told her Today show colleagues. These more intense flavors may help reinvigorate interest in tea, though with sales of coffee outpacing tea, the revival may be an uphill climb.