Tuesday, August 16, 2011

If you hate coffee snobs, you'll really hate what's coming next

I am old.

I am so old that I remember a time when we DIDN'T have flannel-clad yuppies ordering a triple decaf something latte hold the anchovies.

Back when I was growing up, coffee was coffee, and the most exotic thing that people would do would be to put cream and sugar in it. But by the 1990s, the art of ordering coffee and coffee drinks became incredibly complex, and most of us (myself included) have been known to get a coffee drink that was not 100% coffee.

Even the beans have become more complex. Juan Valdez is spinning his head as different coffee beans from different countries are discussed ad nauseum. And that's not counting all the "fair trade" conversation.

So, if you're one of those people who are sick of all of the coffee specialization...I have sad news for you. You see, the next trend - and this is in the United States of America, mind you - is tea shops.

Matcha. Sencha. Rooibos. Oolong.

In the Inland region and around the country, consumers are adding new words to their vocabularies as they explore the growing world of specialty teas. And entrepreneurs are offering better access through a growing number of retail shops and tea rooms....

Merkaba [a tea shop] sells more than 100 varieties of specialty or loose-leaf teas, along with crafts from around the world.

And it looks like a "Starbucks" is already emerging.

Teavana has seen explosive growth in recent years. There are about 165 stores today, and the company plans to grow to around 500 by 2015. The company generated more than $121 million from investors during its initial public offering July 28. Shares closed nearly 64 percent above the offering price in the first day of trading at $27.80.

Patrick Farrell, a spokesman for the Atlanta-based chain, said the industry is tapping into consumers' increasing interest in healthy lifestyles, and their growing appreciation for specialty items.

If this takes off, the reverberations will spread throughout the world as more established players try to latch onto the trend. Imagine a McDonalds with varieties of tea in addition to "sweet" and "unsweet."
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