May 9, 2011: Tea

It’s a given that most American adults drink coffee. Not me. For some reason my siblings and I never took to the stuff. But we grew up drinking tea. America is finally catching up with my family (kidding) and embracing tea.

Tea shops are cropping up all over the country. In fact, Bloomberg Businessweek reported several months ago that currently, according to the Tea Association of the USA, there are about 3,000 tearooms in the country, up from only 200 fifteen years ago.

Bloomberg Businessweek dates the start of the tea craze to the 2003 debut of Argo Tea in Chicago. Argo Tea’s CEO Arsen Avakian told the magazine he realized “Americans only knew ‘the crappy tea bag’ and dreamed of creating … cafes offering modern twists on traditional brews.” Avakian’s model? You might think Starbucks, but no, he told Bloomberg Businessweek, “Apple completely revolutionized the computer business. We’re hoping to do that with tea.” Argo has 15 tearooms in Chicago, St. Louis and New York.

Argo’s timing was good. Coffee consumption seems to have (at least temporarily) peaked (notice all the non-coffee drinks now available in Starbucks?), while tea consumption is up about 5 percent.

There are many ways to capitalize on America’s new love for tea. You can open your own tearoom-there are several springing up in Southern California, where I live. If you own a restaurant or coffeehouse, you should add a variety of tea drinks to your menu. Depending on where you live, tea could work from carts or trucks (mobile food is still hot).

Or, if you want nothing to do with selling the beverage itself, you can still profit from the tea trend: Think accessories. From fine china to hearty mugs, from steepers to pretty teapots, the newest American tea party is just getting started.