Unkrate Exclusive: India Still Runs on Chai. However, the Colour is Changing – It’s Green, White and Black now

Suman Prasad | Prateek Thakker

This morning, while having my breakfast, we ended up discussing with our families on how our tea drinking habits have drastically changed. There was a time, when our fathers would easily gulp down 5-6 cups of tea, just to remain active. It is more like your body needs refueling, he said. My wife exclaimed that she has brought down her consumption to just one cup a day, thereby saving the world her wrath! (Or Not!) What more? My bestie, a true Tea lover now has boxes of flavored green, white and black teas stacked up at home and swears by it. I myself had a bad habit of not stepping out my home without getting my daily dose of ‘kadak chai’. Now, green tea is what gets me going through the day. It is not just my friend or me but many people I know have made a switch from traditional milk tea to the modern teas. What is the reason behind this change? Is it entirely true?

Team Unkrate caught up with leading Tea Brands and Tea Cafes in India to get these answers.  Let’s find out!

Talking about the sudden rise in the acceptance of green, white and other specialty teas in India, Razi Khan, Director of Sales & Marketing at Typhoo says, “With the rise of millennials in India and globalization, consumers are moving to healthy options. Hence, the perception of Green tea, White and rest leading to weight loss and healthier lifestyle is on the rise. This is partly true and all these lead to increased metabolic rate which in turns burns the fat”.


Specialty Teas by Typhoo

“Globally there is a drastic shift from coffee to tea among the well-traveled youth. This shift is a lifestyle change as well as due to the health benefits of teas over coffee. Tea is a trending beverage and every office offers green tea as a beverage option”, adds Kavita Mathur, Co-founder of Tea Trails India.

Jasmine Green Tea by Tea Trails

Ashok Mittal, CEO, Teamonk Global points out that people today want to look and feel good which is not just a function of external appearance, healthy well-being and being a state of mental bliss. He further says, “There is an awareness among the consumers about the low caffeine and high antioxidants content of green and white teas. Low caffeine content naturally enhances metabolism and antioxidants build immunity that helps in enhancing the overall health quotient. With more awareness of these benefits, there is an obvious shift in the consumption habits”.

Yoshin Lemon Green Tea (Nilgiris) by Teamonk Global

India is a country where the majority of the population start their day with a cup of tea. Just a small switch from the regular milk and sugar tea to green, white and other specialty tea can have a positive impact. Dr. Rupali Ambegaonkar, Founder Director, Tea Culture of the World makes a very valid point. She says, “When we consume that normal cup of tea with milk and sugar for the caffeine kick, we are consuming loads of calories in our system. We can get the regular caffeine even with tea steeped in just hot water. This simple switch makes a huge difference as one can sip on this kind of tea several times a day, daily intake of water also increases. This definitely makes a difference in the daily lifestyle”.

Tea Box by Tea Culture of the World

“Tea both internationally and in India is a trending healthy beverage and millennials are shifting from coffee to tea as a lifestyle change and also for the health benefits attached to it. Tea is the most consumed beverage after water”, says Mathur.

In India, the Chai with milk has been the most popular Tea says, Aamir Abbas Khan, Head - Marketing and Sales at Ripple Tea. However, he adds, Green tea is growing and will add on to the range while white tea will remain only a very small portion of the market given that it is most expensive”.

Bhuman Dani and Shariq Ashraf, Co-founders of TGL Co. shares a detailed analysis on this. They say, “There are 4 kinds of tea-drinkers in India – First the non-tea Drinker, second the Chai Drinker, their day is incomplete without 5 cups of regular milk/sugar chai, third the Chai Drinker drifted towards tea due to peer pressure, health awareness and the fourth are Tea fanatics ( Tea lovers. Only consumes green teas/white teas/ specialty teas). For type 1, 2, & 3, a small switch in their daily cuppa will affect their lifestyle positively. Researchers attribute tea’s health properties to polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) and phytochemicals”.

Sparkling Strawberry: Dessert Collection by TGL Co. 

They further add “Teas have been found to boost metabolism, immunity, help with digestion, fat-loss, protect against cardiovascular diseases, keeps you hydrated. The list goes on. Tea has less caffeine yet brings similar mental stimulation like coffee. Freshly brewed tea is 100% natural, fat-free, calorie-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, preservative-free, and low in caffeine—tea is the healthy choice”.

It is an accepted and visible fact that there has been a rise in the acceptance of green, whites and other specialty teas. However, not many really understand the difference between these different colored or herbal teas. Susmita Das Gupta, Founder of The Tea Philosophy makes a clear distinction. She opines, “There are two types of teas, one that comes with tea leaves and the other which does not have tea leaf at all. One without leaves is called herbal teas. When you hear the word herbal tea it is understandable that this tea has no tea leaves but is made of different kinds of herbs like the Tulsi, chamomile etc. The health benefits of these herbal teas are dependent on the type of herb or herbs used”.

Gupta continues, “The one with tea leaves has four major types and these are dependent on the amount of oxidation that the tea leaves have gone through after they are plucked from the tea plant. Based on these we have white, green, oolong and black. White is the least oxidized leaf while black is the most. Each of these tea varieties - the white, green, oolong and black has more or less the same benefits health wise. Typical health benefits of tea are high antioxidants, less caffeine than coffee, very good for your bones, improves the immune system, good for your heart, very good for your skin and helps maintain your weight”.

Fruit infusion is another variety that is fast catching up in the Indian market. The question here is, does it have any health benefit or is just marketing that is creating a demand for this category. Mittal calls spade a spade, he says, “Most common fruit teas available in the market are made of artificial flavoring or nature identical flavors which are not good for health. Be sure to choose your teas without added sugars and without artificial fruit flavors and opt for teas with pure and natural dehydrated fruits, which deliver high on the health benefits and offer superior taste”.

Dani and Ashraf echo Mittals’ statement. They add, “Fruit infusions are technically not teas, they are infusions of fruit extract or juice, also known as tisanes and are not as healthy as fruit infused teas as they do not contain any health benefits of tea. The fruit juice is high in natural sugars. Although fruit teas are watered down, they still contain fruit sugars and should be consumed in moderation”.

Flavors are such a hit with green teas but the question is isn’t the flavors artificial? Gupta gives a clear picture. She says, “Green tea is an acquired taste, particularly because we as Indians did not grow up drinking green tea as in countries like China-Japan or Korea. This green tea has a unique vegetative scent. Either people love it or they hate it. Therefore, to cover that smell lot of brands have started using flavors. These flavored green teas typically come in tea bags. Now you cannot have a specialty tea in a tea bag. That is an oxymoron. Particularly if that tea bag is made of a translucent, mesh paper and stapled to a thread”.

Showcase by The Tea Philosophy

Speaking on the same lines as Gupta, Aamir says,The flavors added to green teas basically give a change from the usual. Many people may not like the taste of green tea by itself which may deter them from consuming the same. Flavoring adds a whole new dimension to taste and consumers can opt for their preferred flavor thereby enjoying the perfect cuppa of green tea".

Gupta further points out something very important. She says, “Tea is not a medicine and therefore it should not be looked at only from a health positioning. Specialty teas are like wines, and some of the specialty teas are more expensive than wine or champagne. Specialty teas are for celebrations, for snob values, prestige values as well as for lifestyle enhancement or style statements. Tea is such an interesting beverage that even if you drink one kind of tea every day of your life you will still not have drank all the possible teas available in the world. Therefore, it is also about experience and exploration”.

Green Tea by Ripple

India is one of the major tea producing and exporting countries. With a rise in the demand for green, white and other specialty teas in India, this will impact the Indian market. Ambegaonkar points out that regions like Assam and Darjeeling are now producing not just black teas but white, green and oolongs as well. There is a break from the routine observed in the past. These tea-producing estates are evolving with the changing times.

Gupta emphasizes the specialties of India. She says,“Darjeeling and Assam tea are our prized possessions and we should be mighty proud of them. The frost teas of Nilgiris are priceless. The first flush Darjeeling tea (spring tea) can fetch up to Rs.100,000 for a kilo which is approximately Rs. 20,000  for a cup of tea. There are our super Speciality Teas”.

Gupta further adds, “India is the second largest producer of tea in the world and globally 60% of the tea produced is orthodox. So more Indians want to eat drink specialty tea, we will export less of Assam, Darjeeling, Nilgiris, Munnar, Kangra orthodox teas and keep it for domestic consumption. Majority of our orthodox teas are exported, and some of the biggest buyers are the royal families of Europe, Middle East and Japan. Good for us”.

However, Dani and Ashraf have a different take on this. They add, “97% of the tea produced in the country is exported. The tea lovers in the country, familiar with the global specialty tea trends had to often rely on their traveling plans or relatives to stock up on their requirements. Now, with well-established global sourcing processes, the tea fanatics are no longer deprived of high quality, premium teas. The export percentage has dropped mainly due to local demand. With increasing number of people being acquainted with the specialty tea culture, regular teas and chais are bound to take a hit that is evident by the market growth rate of Chai at 4% per annum as compared to Specialty teas at 16-20% per annum. Clearly, specialty teas are the future over chai”.

Mogo Mogo: Dessert Collection by TGL Co. 


Razi concludes with a clarity. He says, “Just like the global demand for black teas are reducing, we have seen a rise of specialty (this includes Darjeeling and Assam) without milk is on the rise. Anything with sugar and milk, demand will come down but not the demand for tea consumption. We today have more options for the consumer than ever before”.


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