Ingredient Focus: Tea

The regional tea industry's challenges and changing demands from consumers

A closer look at the region's tea industry.
A closer look at the region's tea industry.


Arura Eco tea

Sava has recently launched the region’s first fully biodegradable tea sachet and envelope made from banana leaves and sugar cane extracts.  Arura Eco tea is the first eco-friendly tea solution in the Middle East designed for businesses and venues that witness high consumption of tea bags such as hotels including rooms, breakfast areas and meeting rooms. Arura Eco Tea is a pioneering sustainability solution, using 100% biodegradable packaging, food grade ink and no aluminium foiling.

Te Reval

La Marquise International will be launching a pre-portioned loose leaf tea solution under its Te Reval brand. Each tea and tisane item will be packed into a 5g sachet making it convenient for the food service operator to always measure the correct amount of tea as well ensuring the tea is always fresh. The accompanying glass tea pot with a plunger mechanism is designed to brew 500ml of tea. A glass tea timer is also offered as an aid to determine the correct brewing time.

Pure Leaf 

Unilever is launching its Pure Leaf tea range this July. Pure Leaf is an especially a natural tea that will come with a wide range of interesting tea variants. Once picked the tea is processed with orthodox rolling tables.  These processes are as least invasive as possible, so as to maintain the integrity of the leaf tea and bring out its true essence. Once rolled the tea leaves are carefully dried and not burned to keep them as flavoursome as possible. Unilever will also offer on-site training services on how to execute the perfect service to guests.

Did you know?

Matcha be separated into two main categories: ceremonial grade and culinary grade.

Ceremonial grade matcha is the highest quality green tea powder available. It is vibrant green in colour, with a very delicate taste and extremely fine texture, and can easily be recognised from the other matcha grades.

Culinary grade matcha is most often used for cooking and baking. It’s also fine to drink culinary matcha, which can still be high in quality, just with a slightly different flavour profile than ceremonial grade matcha.

Top trends


Increasingly, hoteliers are partnering up with category experts (tea, coffee and chocolatiers) to offer their guests a more personalised experience. For example, Sava has partnered with the Kempinski Mall of the Emirates and the JW Marriott Marquis to integrate a retail corner within their lobby lounge managed entirely by a tea sommeliers appointed and trained by our company in an effort to enrich the guest experience and generate a new revenue stream for the hotel.

Ahead of their new premium product launch, Unlilever has also recognised the importance of skilled servers. Lucas Dollfuss, head of The Tea Company by UFS, Middle East said: “We will provide on-site training on how to execute the perfect serve of tea to guests, as well as a website to browse the different tea variants and tea materials. We are seeing that owners and managers of high end restaurants, hotels and business class travel are searching to enhance their guest experience through high quality natural flavours and also care about every detail of the serve.”


This trend has strongly driven consumption of tea given the perceived health benefits especially of white and green teas. Traditional black tea consumption markets see continuous growth in the green tea and natural infusion segment of the market. According to Olga Cassidy, marketing manager for La Marquise International, this is applicable to both the retail and the hospitality sectors. Government bodies in the region are starting to use new regulations and taxes to clamp down on the consumption of sodas and energy drinks. Dollfuss adds: “Healthy drinks are the perfect alternative. We are seeing that cold brew tea is winning over customers with its smooth taste, lower caffeine levels and hit of antioxidants.”


Although they may enjoy the properties of loose leaf tea, some increasingly time-poor consumers require easier and simpler ways to prepare teas. Premium brands are using silken pyramid tea bags which allow tea afficionados to enjoy the elevated taste of whole leaf teas and infusions presented in a convenient manner with which to infuse and dispose of the product. The ongoing development of tea pods for single serve coffee machines will continue this trend.



Much like coffee, consumers are starting to demand transparency with regards to where and how their tea is manufactured. The term ‘single origin’ refers to loose leaf teas which hail from a single geographic region, estate or garden. Such single origin teas bear the closest relationship to the areas in which they’re grown, reflecting the unique combination of soil, climate and geography found there (this is often called ‘terroir’ in the wine industry). According to Dollfuss, three things make a good tea: “Origin, the way it’s plucked and the way it’s manufactured. Pure Leaf is a single origin tea. This matters because each origin has its own flavour characteristics, and at Unilever Food Solutions, we want to preserve these flavour characteristics in our tea.”


Tea is a hydroscopic product and so is prone to absorbing moisture and aromas. It should be stored in an airtight environment away from any strong smelling substances. With time, tea absorbs moisture and this changes its taste and characteristics. The ‘keeping quality’ of teas differ depending on origin and type. Cassidy explains: “Generally Ceylon black teas taste best when consumed within 12 months of packing but for Chinese green teas it can be as little as six months. So it’s best to use tea brands which are single origin and packaged at the source.”


La Marquise International is an exclusive distributor of teas from Jafferjee Brothers in the UAE and Oman. Jafferjee Brothers is a tea manufacturer and distributor with tea plantations in Ceylon and production and packaging facilities in Sri Lanka.  One of the biggest developments in the industry has been the growth of teas certified under Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance, ensuring a fair price for farmers and workers. Speaking about their single origin production methods, Cassidy says: “Jafferjee Brothers use only 100% pure Ceylon tea and packages all its teas in Sri Lanka thereby ensuring maximum value addition at origin which tremendously benefits the local economy.


As a result of new inventory being added in the market, forcing a decline in revenue per available room (PAR) and available room rates (ARR), some hoteliers are looking for ways to reduce cost in order to maintain their bottom line. As a result, decision-making, pertaining to the selection of F&B products is slowly shifting from F&B managers, to purchasing managers who are focused primarily on reducing costs and opting for lower quality items. Premium in-room amenities such as tea and coffee are often the first to go. “While it may offer slight savings in the short term, it will have much greater repercussions in the future, leaving hotel guests as the biggest victim with no choice but to seek other venues  where they will experience more value for their money,” says Tariq Aruri, managing partner at Sava Brands.

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