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Georgia's tea rooms booming as consumption rises

Published: Friday, August 31, 2007

Updated: Saturday, October 10, 2009 10:10

Rose Cottage, a charming tea room and cafe, in Pine Mountain, Ga, is the perfect place to enjoy a cup of tea while having a little taste of England.

In addition to the exquisite antique Victorian furnishings and the fine English China that adorns the tea room, Rose Cottage offers well over a dozen varieties of flavorful tea. Their three most popular are; Paris, a fruity tea with a hint of currant and vanilla; African Autumn, a tea blended with citrus and cranberry; and Bangkok tea, which subtly combines lemon grass, coconut, and ginger. All of which entice visitors with their wonderful aromas. Open since September 2003, the business is booming as their tea sales are "increasing steadily," according to Ashley Milner, manager of Rose Cottage.

"We are all word of mouth," she says, "we don't advertise a lot."

Due to the rising popularity of tea, numerous tea rooms like Rose Cottage as well as other retail stores have sprung up throughout Georgia, including many in Metro Atlanta.

"There is no escaping the fact that tea's popularity is ever increasing," says Joseph Simrany, president of the Tea Association of the U.S.A., Inc.

National tea sales have tripled from $1.84 billion in 1990 to $6.5 billion in 2006, according to the Tea Association of the U.S.A., Inc.'s website. In fact, in 2006 alone, Americans consumed over 2.25 billion gallons of tea, of which the grates concentration came from the South and Northeast of the country.

As a result of such high demand for tea, over 2200 specialty tea rooms and retail shops have popped up in big cities and small towns throughout America, according to Simrany.

In Atlanta, Teavana, an upscale tea franchise which opened its first tea house in 1997, now owns numerous tea houses in 21 states, including five of them in the Atlanta Metro area. Teavana, which means "a heaven of tea," offers more than a 100 varieties of white, green, black, and oolong tea, to name a few.

"I really like their spiced chai, green tea and rooibos toffee," says Angelica Kallenberg, a college student who was tea shopping with her friends at Teavana in Lenox Mall.

Walking into one of the stores, the one can't ignore the pampering display of assorted exotic Chinese Yixing, Russian porcelain, Japanese cast iron as well as other beautifully handcrafted teapots. Also, the shopper can feel and smell the texture of the various types of loose tea leaves on display.

"When people walk into Teavana, they can get a sense of where the tea is from, plus, they can also enjoy different tea samples," says Derrick Armstead, a Teavana customer service representative.

While traditional tea rooms as well as franchises may benefit from the increasing demand for their product; regular grocery stores and supermarkets like Publix and Kroger are also devoting more aisle space for various types of specialty tea as well as ready-to-drink tea.

In fact, according to Simrany, the ready-to-drink tea sector has been "consistently ranked as one of the fastest growing new product entries over the last several years."

"Ready-to drink tea is benefiting from the important desire of American consumers for convenience," Simrany says.

Additionally, even leading traditional coffee retailers like Starbucks have started selling varieties of tea. After the acquisition of Tazo LLC, a tea company based in Portland, Ore. in 1999, Starbucks has been offering a range of black, green, and white teas along with other herbal infusions.

But what is no make of the increasing number of people drinking tea?

"The tea-and-health message is playing a very important role in the new popularity of tea," says Simrany. "All real tea, especially green tea, is in high demand due to health concerns."

This is exactly why Kathy Heubusch, a GSU student, drinks it when she is ill, even though she is an avid coffee lover. "I did try green tea for the health benefits, but was not fond of it," she says "however, I have heard that white tea has a better flavor, so I may try that." On the other hand, Laura Hayes, a physician in Decatur, likes to drink tea because of its relaxing flavor. She has been drinking it since her childhood. Although Hays doesn't drink it for health benefits, "it doesn't hurt," she says. A Swedish study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2005 found that women who drank two or more cups of green or black tea were 46 percent less likely to develop ovarian cancer when compared to women who never or seldom consumed it.

Although Susanna Larrson, the lead author of this study, remains very optimistic about the results, "there is need for further research," she says.

Larrson believes that "tea is also likely to reduce the risk of other types of cancers as well."

Furthermore, Simrany thinks that "given the experience of the last several years, the intrinsic qualities of tea, and the lifestyle and consumption trends that appear to have become firmly established in the marketplace; only one logical conclusion seems possible," he says, and that is "the future for tea in the United States looks very hot indeed."

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