There are few drinks more refreshing on a steamy summer day than a chilled glass of freshly brewed iced tea.
In fact, iced tea is so popular at this time of year that June has officially been designated as National Iced Tea Month. And while iced tea dates all the way back to the Civil War era, its popularity has skyrocketed since then — both in its original incarnation and in the form of many different tasty variations.
Read on to learn more about why any time is a good time for tea time in today’s restaurant world.
Iced Tea By the Numbers
According to food-centric market research firm Datassential, approximately 25 percent of Americans drink iced tea compared to less than 20 percent who enjoy their tea hot.
Both iced tea and hot tea, meanwhile, claim spots on the list of America’s top 10 consumed beverages.
Given its popularity, it’s not exactly a surprise that iced tea is featured prominently on so many restaurant menus: in fact, 74 percent of all beverage-selling restaurant menus include iced tea among their offerings.
Just how popular is iced tea compared to beverage alternatives? You may be surprised to learn that it bests premium coffee, iced coffee, lemonade, milk, hot chocolate, and many other drink options!
All of which begs the question: Why is iced tea so hot? For starters, it’s in good company. Many kinds of beverages have been making their way in increasing numbers onto restaurant menus for one simple reason: they offer stellar margins.
Restaurants looking to amp up their revenues are finding drinks to be a simple and effective way to boost their bottom line.
But iced tea also has its share of unique selling points, including its widely-touted health benefits and extraordinary versatility in terms of flavor.
Types of Iced Tea
What iced tea varieties rise to the top when it comes to menu penetration? Raspberry claims the leading position at 13 percent penetration, followed by sweet tea and unsweetened tea at 11 percent and 9 percent, respectively.
Sweetened, green tea, and peach tea are tied with 5 percent penetration, while lemon (4 percent), Thai (3 percent), mango (2 percent) and strawberry (2 percent) round out the list.
But it doesn’t end there. Flavors like passion fruit, blackberry, and whipped cream-topped pomegranate have all been rolled out as new menu items in recent years.
And then, of course, there are boozy tea cocktails — including everything from the classic Long Island iced tea to various tea-infused spritzers, sparklers, and more.
When it comes to the contemporary diner’s focus on health, one type of tea in particular is making a name for itself: matcha.
Described by Datassential as the “super-beverage of the year,” this specially grown and processed powdered green tea is lauded for its unique wellness-promoting attributes and is thought to do everything from boost the metabolism and naturally detoxify the body to calm the mind and enhance mood.
Antioxidant-rich matcha is popular served alone or in blended beverages, and has seen an impressive 50 percent increase on restaurant menus since 2010.
Giving Hot Tea Its Due
While iced tea may claim the spotlight in June, hot tea also remains a popular menu pick with today’s diners. Green tea, herbal tea, and chai appear on the most menus, with Earl Grey, chamomile, jasmine, black tea, mint, organic, and English breakfast also earning spots on the top 10.
As with iced tea, however, there’s no end to tea creativity, with restaurants introducing hot teas featuring unexpected flavors like sour cherries, rose hips, and lemongrass.
The takeaway for today’s restaurants? Not only is tea having a major menu moment, but it’s expected to pick up even more steam in the months and years ahead.
And while coffee may always be the buzzier beverage, restaurants willing not only to embrace the tea trend but to experiment with their own original tea concoctions — including plenty of creative iced tea offerings — are likely to see enhanced interest and opportunities.
If your restaurant hasn’t yet hopped on the iced tea trend, isn’t it time you got in on the brew to-do?