Those Counterintuitive Kids and Their Funky New Age Brews

17Oct07

funky tea
[Public Flickr photo courtesy user moosh]

Asia is bemoaning the loss of the traditional tea ceremony. With good reason too, as this recent Reuters report points out.

From Beijing to Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong and Taipei, fast-paced modern life means that tea has little appeal for Asian youth who don’t have the patience to wait the 10 minutes it takes to brew tea in the traditional way. Determined to restore tea to its exalted status in Asia, tea lovers are trying to repackage tea as a funky new-age brew to a young generation more inclined to slurp down a can of artificially-flavoured tea than to sip the real thing. [via]

I sometimes wonder to what extent the opposite phenomenon may be occurring in the west (i.e., tea getting more popular), and what its impact might be in the long run. As the health benefits of tea are becoming more widely recognized (due in no small measure to the efforts of the big guys – Snapple et.al.), will parents start weaning their kids off sodas and other artificially sweetened beverages in favor of healthier ones (like tea)? At least some folks think so.

I was watching a recent Charlie Rose interview with Mark Penn, discussing Penn’s new book, Microtrends. The whole point is this (and I’m paraphrasing here): some of the most powerful forces at work today are the emerging, counterintuitive trends that are shaping society in ways we didn’t think possible. Counterintuitive is the operative word here. As Penn writes in the introduction, “While people are eating more healthful foods than ever, Big Mac sales have never been higher.” [side note: you may be interested in this New York Times article about Asian immigrant kids getting fatter and more obese after moving to the US. (via)]

It’s counterintuitive to think that kids in countries that are steeped in centuries of tea drinking may one day drink less tea than their western counterparts. Counterintuitive, yes, but could it end up being true? In 2020, as a new generation of Asian teenagers start their day by ordering a double-tall-extra-skinny latte, will their American counterparts be wondering whether a strong Assam or a delicate first flush Darjeeling would be more appropriate before that 8:30 class?

Probably not. But then again, maybe. It kind of depends on whats funkier and more new age then.

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