Change brewing for reshaped tea market

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The Independent Online
GLENDA COOPER

Britain's tea bags turned over a new leaf yesterday as the two biggest tea companies announced revolutionary concepts to change our drinking habits.

As Brooke Bond launched its three-dimensional pyramid tea bags, which is meant to taste as good as loose leaf tea, its rival Tetley retaliated by revealing plans for a non-drip tea bag.

Brooke Bond, which makes PG Tips, has spent four years developing the Pyramid, a bag in the shape of a tetrahedron, which allows 50 per cent more room than conventional square or round bags. Extensive research meant that other shapes were considered including triangles and pentagons.

"The tests proved that the tetrahedral tea bag comes closer to allowing the tea to brew like loose tea in a teapot than any other bag," the makers Brooke Bond claimed.

The tea bag, invented in 1953, remained largely unchanged for 40 years until Tetley introduced its round bag in 1989. It is now the dominant shape in the United Kingdom. Sales of tea bags in the UK account for 90 per cent of tea sales worth around pounds 530m a year.

Tetley's non-drip tea bag is presently being tested in Australia, although plans for a UK launch have not been finalised. "It means you'll be able to lift the bag from your cup without spilling it all over your desk," said Ian Prutton, its director of world-wide business development. "It has two strings with tags which, when they are pulled together, squeeze all the excess liquid out of the bag," he said.

Brooke Bond is claiming that its three-dimensional bag is "the first major innovation since the introduction of the square bag in the 1950s to offer genuine taste and brewing benefits".

Dr Fred Marquis of the thermofluid section at Imperial College, London, tested the bag: "It tends to naturally float on the surface of the water, allowing the water to flow more freely in and out of the tea bag. It is this extra movement of tea leaves which helps the brewing process."

PG Tips Pyramids will be launched in south-west England in April and then in the rest of the UK. They will cost the same as the square bags.

"The idea is a very positive one," said Illtyd Lewis, executive director of the Tea Council. "What the industry is always doing is seeking to get more efficient brewing out of bags."

"The PG Tips blend has not changed, just the brewing method. It's a question of how you like your cuppa. If you like strong tea you are likely to get more out of it. If you like weak tea it will brew quicker."

Tea is the UK's most popular beverage representing 42 per cent of drinks, compared with coffee's 18.6 per cent. We drink 187 million cups a day - an average of four cups each. Around 10 per cent of the world's total tea production is sold in the UK.

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