"Tea is always a good idea," or so the saying goes. And it seems that Australians agree, spending just shy of $442 million on tea last year.
And increasingly herbal or fruit tea is the tea of choice, appealing to a wide range of consumers, whatever their lifestyle.
According to market research group Euromonitor International, growth in this category has been driven by the younger generation – either because they're following health and wellness trends or because they're starting with herbal tea before taking up the black or green varieties.
To get a better insight into which herbal and fruit teas people are drinking and why, we surveyed more than 1170 Voice Your Choice (VYC) members about their tea-drinking preferences.
Why herbal tea?
When asked why they drink herbal or fruit tea, the main reason people give is general enjoyment – 68% of our survey respondents just like the taste of them.
Other key reasons for choosing herbal tea are the absence of caffeine (36%) and the promotion of relaxation (35%). Caffeine doesn't agree with everyone after a certain time of day, and many people are trying to reduce their caffeine intake.
Herbal tea is seen as a good alternative to a regular tea or coffee, more likely to lend itself to relaxing
Herbal tea is seen as a good alternative to a regular tea or coffee, more likely to lend itself to relaxing. The choice to drink herbal tea is often a combination of these reasons.
Theresia explains: "Drinking herbal teas is soothing, warming and lets me relax, without extra caffeine."
Cathy told us: "Herbal tea often has an interesting flavour, little caffeine and still requires the enjoyable ritual of traditional tea drinking."
"I have a ritual of drinking herbal/fruit teas in the afternoon, combined with getting my feet up and reading a book," says Robert.
Lack of caffeine is key
The absence of caffeine is clearly a major perk.
"I only drink herbal teas, have done so for many years, originally to reduce caffeine and sugar intake," explains Barb.
Jane speaks for many when she says, "Caffeine effects become worse with ageing. I can no longer drink regular teas with caffeine after about 5pm, if I want to go to sleep."
A drink for all ages
And being caffeine free means that herbal and fruit teas can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Margaret says, "I prefer not to have a caffeinated drink every time, so I substitute these drinks for regular tea. It's also nice to share a non-caffeinated cuppa with my young grandkids."
About one in five (22%) people indicate they drink herbal and fruit tea for the perceived health benefits, although the benefits sought differ depending on the type of tea.
The main selling point of herbal tea, according to respondents, is simply that it tastes good.
Which herbal tea is most popular?
Mint tea (and its blends) is the most popular herbal tea among the VYC community members we surveyed, with 64% saying they drink it.
Hot on its heels in terms of popularity are ginger/ginger-blend teas (55%) and chamomile/chamomile-blend teas (48%).
Mint tea is a favourite for a range of reasons, from the way it tastes to its perceived benefits, with people just as likely to drink it during the day as in the evening.
"I drink peppermint tea with just hot water, drink it all day long,"says Barb.
"Peppermint tea is my preferred alternative to coffee, especially after midday,"says Beth.
Mint tea is a favourite for a range of reasons, from the way it tastes to its perceived benefits
Of those people who drink mint tea for what they see as its health benefits, 37% drink it to reduce stress and anxiety and 33% to improve sleep and relaxation – but most (67%) drink it to soothe an upset stomach.
Feedback from our survey respondents was peppered with comments such as this, from Hetty: "I like to drink peppermint tea when I have an upset stomach and it seems to help settle it." And this, from Michelle: "I drink peppermint tea to aid digestion."
And it's not just drunk for health reasons. Kim sees mint tea as a treat: "Peppermint is my go-to for tummy issue but it's also my treat at night with some dark chocolate."
Regina, on the other hand, drinks it as a way of tempering indulgence: "I cut down on sweets by replacing my after-dinner coffee and dessert with a cup of peppermint tea."
Many respondents say they drink ginger tea to soothe an upset stomach.
People often drink ginger tea as a blend with lemon or lemongrass.
Annette tells us: "I drink a lemon/ginger blend most days – morning tea and afternoon tea."
"Love ginger/lemon blend, particularly in winter,"says Elizabeth.
Of those who drink ginger tea for its health benefits, 48% drink it to soothe an upset stomach, 43% to boost immunity and 33% to improve blood pressure and circulation.
Gina commented: "I've been having ginger and lemongrass tea when I don't wish to drink caffeinated drinks, as it doesn't keep me awake or give me heartburn."
"Ginger tea I drink if I have an upset stomach,"says Janine.
Joanne refers to the ginger in tea as "warming and good for digestion".
The majority of respondents (85%) drink chamomile tea in the evening (compared with 28% in the afternoon and 19% in the morning).
This pattern makes sense, given how many people strongly associate chamomile tea with sleep. Of those who drink chamomile tea for its perceived health benefits, 82% drink it to improve sleep and relaxation, and 58% to reduce stress and anxiety.
Of those who drink chamomile tea for its perceived health benefits, 82% drink it to improve sleep and relaxation
Steve tells us: "Chamomile is my every-night tea. I try to keep caffeinated teas to the morning and early afternoon."
"I drink chamomile tea at night to assist sleep and relaxation," says Hetty.
Murray agrees: "Chamomile tea seems to help me sleep better."
Tea drinking is often thought of as a ritual – people will drink or make it the same way, drink it at the same time of day, or even drink it from the same cup each day.
Here's what our survey reveals about the herbal-tea drinking habits of our VYC members:
- Almost one in three (31%) drink herbal/fruit tea every day, and a further 53% drink it at least once a week.
- More than half (57%) drink just one cup of herbal tea a day on the days when they drink herbal tea. But one in 10 (11%) drink three or more cups a day.
- People mostly use herbal/fruit tea bags (74%), 15% use loose-leaf tea and just six percent make their own using plant leaves, dried fruit, spices, etc.
- The majority of people buy herbal/fruit tea from the supermarket (81%) or a boutique retailer (24%)
- Most people only drink hot or warm herbal/fruit tea (75%) but almost a quarter (23%) drink both hot or cold/iced herbal and fruit teas. The category of teas designed to be drunk cold (examples include Twinings In'fuse and Tetley Cold Infusions) is growing, and is popular with younger age groups, much like kombucha.
Try making your own herbal tea at home.
How to make the best herbal tea
Many of our survey respondents make and drink their own herbal or fruit tea, either in addition to or instead of store-bought versions.
If you're after a bit of DIY inspiration, we've collated some of their recipes and tips below:
- "I like my ginger tea made from raw grated ginger, honey and lemon juice." (Elizabeth)
- "I often dry herbs from my garden: lemongrass; chocolate mint; spearmint, etc." (Anne)
- "My wife periodically makes up batches (1-1.5 litres) of ginger tea by boiling ginger roots. It's very strong, so I have a diluted mug after dinner every day." (Tony)
- "I drink lots of teas from plants grown in my garden or fresh produce from green grocer... including raspberry leaf, lemon balm and chamomile for stomach cramps, lemon and ginger for nausea, sage for sore throats, and lemon verbena." (Lisa)
- "I use fresh wherever possible, e.g. ginger, mint leaves, lemon slices and honey. Not the commercial brands." (Bob)
- "'I love making hot tea with things like thinly sliced fresh ginger or freshly picked mint leaves. Dried whole cloves also make nice tea." (Debbie)
- "I like drinking a turmeric, ginger, chilli and lemon concoction that I make myself with honey for when I'm feeling sick. It's the best pick-me-up." (Eleanor)
- "My preference is for tea made with fresh ingredients. I resort to teabags when mint, lemon verbena/rosehip are not available/in season." (Paula)
- "I like to grow my own lemon verbena and mint to consume as tea when the mood takes me." (Valerie)
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.