5 Fun Facts about US Tea Consumption

Most tea in the US is consumed as iced tea.

Ice cubes, an American Invention, play a starring role in the consumption of tea in this country.

Much is said about US being a coffee drinking country, but US tea consumption is pretty impressive by itself. Here are some facts about how Americans consume their tea.

  1. 85% of all tea is consumed iced in the United States. For those of us that know that ice in beverages is a US invention, this is not a shocker. You can read a little about the history of ice cubes in our blog post about Making Tea Ice Cubes, and if that does not convince you that Americans love iced tea there is our blog on the History of Iced Tea. We have been consuming this beverage for almost as long as our country has been around.
  2. On any given day there are around 158 million cups of tea being drunk in the US. I smile at this one as I know a lot of tea drinkers, myself included, that will consume around 4-6 cups a day. So it is probably more fair to say there are around 50 million die hard tea drinkers in this country. To put the 158 million cups in perspective, China consumes 1.5 billion cups of tea a day. Granted, China has a population of around 1.3 billion and the US has population around 316 million, so it isn’t a completely fair comparison. However, it does show there is plenty of room from growth in tea consumption in the US.
  3. In 2015, 285 million pounds of tea was imported into the United States, making the US the third largest importer of tea on the planet. In case you are curious, Russia and Pakistan where number 1 and 2 respectively.
  4. Black tea is still the most consumed type of tea in the US at about 85%, followed by Green tea at 14% and other teas accounting for the remaining 1%. This statistics excludes tisanes.
  5. 69% of tea consumed in the US is from a tea bag. This one makes me cringe. The good news is that this is decreasing as Americans learn about loose leaf tea and how much better it tastes than a tea bag. So I raise my cup to all of you who help to educate your friends on why they should abandon those tea bags for the good stuff.

Many thanks to the Tea Association of the United States for these interesting tidbits on the state of tea consumption in the US.

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Cleaning Travel Mugs, No Elbow Grease Required

Travel Mug Cleaning

Travel mug filled with baking soda, vinegar, and boiling water cleaning itself…

Well, we should start by admitting that cleaning travel mugs usually consists of a quick rinse of water to get out any leftover tea before quickly refilling it in the morning and heading out the door to work. So any true cleaning really doesn’t happen until the weekend, and that is only if we remember to do it. Well, that leaves us to the problem of a very stained travel mug that eventually leads to all the tea tasting the same. So what is the easiest way to clean travel mugs? Diluted bleach will do the trick, but I am not too fond of putting chemicals that could possibly poison me if I fail to properly rinse into a container I routinely drink out of. So I return to my favorite standby cleaners of baking soda and vinegar. It does a great job with zero elbow grease.

Cleaning Travel Mugs

You will need the following:

  • A bowl big enough to hold the lid to your travel mug and possibly another bowl or plate to weigh down the lid if it floats once you fill up the bowl with water.
  • Enough baking soda to put 1 tablespoon per 8 oz of volume of the travel mug, plus an extra 2 tablespoons for the lid
  • Enough white vinegar to allow for 2 tablespoons per 8 oz of volume of the travel mug, plus an extra 4 tablespoons for the lid
  • An old toothbrush
  • A soft sided sponge, dish towl or paper towls
  • Enough boiling water to fill the travel mug and submerge completely the lid of your travel mug in the bowl
Travel Mug Before & After

One of my favorite travel mugs before and after cleaning with baking soda, vinegar, and water.

It is recommended you work in your kitchen sink just in case the baking soda and vinegar bubble over the sides of your mug. Start by adding the baking soda to your mug (1 Tbsp/8 oz in size) and then add vinegar. The travel mug pictured here is 16 oz, so I put in 2 tablespoons of baking soda and then 4 tablespoons of vinegar. It will start bubbling up but will likely not run over the sides. Allow the bubbles to decrease before adding in the boiling water, as the water will cause more bubbling. Place the lid of the travel mug in the bowl and put in 2 tablespoons of baking soda and 4 tablespoons of vinegar. Then pour boiling water over the lid until it is fully submerged. You may need to weigh the lid down with another dish if it floats. Fill up the travel mug with boiling water to the point that it covers all the tea stains. You will need to fill the travel mug slowly as the baking soda and vinegar will bubble again. At this point, set a timer for 1 hour and walk away.

At the end of the hour pour out the water and wipe the inside of the mug with a sponge or dish towel. The stains will come up easily. If it is too narrow for you to get your hand in, twist up the dish towel and push it into the cup using the tooth brush and twist it around to wipe off the stains. If necessary, use the toothbrush to wipe off the stains around the bottom edge of the cup where it meets the sides. Next, use the toothbrush on the lid to clean around the edges of the lid and the closure pieces. You will notice quickly that the toothbrush gets dirty, rinse it as you go. Once you can run the toothbrush over the lid and not have it come back brown you will know you got off all the tea build up. Last, rinse both the cup and lid with water to ensure the vinegar and baking soda are gone.

If you need to remove tea stains from your other tea accessories, take a look at this post on cleaning teapots, infusers and mugs.

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Sugar for Tea: 3 Unique Alternatives

For some, finding the right sugar for tea is as equally important as picking out your favorite tea. There is nothing wrong with plain old ordinary cane sugar, other than it takes a while to dissolve in water even when it is at a boil. But, there are other great alternatives that dissolve quickly in your water regardless of the temperature and give you a new way to sweeten your favorite beverage.

Sugar Cane in Arizona

Sugar cane from which molasses is produced. Public Domain – Care Of www.waterarchives.org


This staple for making Gingerbread Cookies is super sweet and dissolves quickly in hot water. Molasses is the left over syrup from extracting sugar from sugar cane juice. There are actually three forms of molasses – light, dark and blackstrap. The light molasses will not change the flavor of your tea much. However, the darker molasses will add a slightly nutty flavor to your tea. This stuff is super sweet so only use about 1/3 to 1/2 of what you typically would use for standard sugar. This sweetener will work well with black tea. It will darken your lighter colored teas, like green or white, but don’t let that stop you from trying it out.

Pancakes and maple syrup

Maple syrup goes great on pancakes, for sure, but also is great in tea. (CC BY SA 2.0 by Flickr user Lemsipmatt)

Maple Syrup

Much like molasses, maple syrup comes in many different grades. Grade A is the lightest, and not easily found in grocery stores. Grade B is the most common and usually what you buy in the grocery store. Our favorite comes from Highland County, Virginia where you can visit sugar shacks every spring, but great maple syrup options come from New England and Canada too. As a syrup it dissolves faster in hot liquids than standard cane sugar crystals and it will add a slight maple flavor to your tea.

Fruit Sugars (Coconut or Date Sugar)

Yes these are crystallized just like plain sugar, but their source is not sugar cane but their respective fruits. Both have a more butterscotch and brown cane sugar flavor than anything else. Date sugar can be made from any dates but you usually see it made from deglet noor dates. These dates are smaller than medjool dates and have a firmer texture. They are grown mainly in California. Coconut sugar has been around a long time in Southeast Asia and has only recently made an appearance in large volume in the last six years in the US. Coconut sugar is made from of the sap of the cut palm flowers.

These unique sugar sources are worth trying should you need something sweet in your cup of tea.

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Chai Tea Ice Cream – No Cook Recipe

Ice cream made with chai tea.

Chai Tea Ice Cream – Perfect for Summer

Chai Tea Ice Cream takes advantage of coconut cream for its fat content, making it super easy to make without having to turn on the cooktop. While we used Masala Chai Tea for this recipe, it can be replaced with other teas that play well with coconut. So feel free to play with the tea you use in this recipe until you find one you enjoy. Humans are not very good at tasting flavors when eating cold foods, so the focus is intensifying the tea flavor while balancing the fat and sugar content of the ice cream so it can come out smooth.

Chai Tea Ice Cream

3 Tablespoons of Masala Chai Tea (Feel free to substitute your favorite tea)

8 oz of water

1 package of Silken Tofu (Silken is critical for this recipe, if you use firm or extra firm you will get lumpy ice cream)

1/2 cup of coconut cream*

1/2 cup of brown rice syrup**

1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract

*  You can find canned coconut cream in the Asian section of your grocery store. If they do not carry the coconut cream, get a can of coconut milk (skip the low fat version) and put it in the refrigerator over night. The cream will rise to the top of the can of coconut milk, allowing you to scoop it out. It is also recommended that you put the can of coconut cream in the refrigerator overnight as well to cool the contents and harden the fat. You will not use the entire can in this recipe but any thing left over can be used in all sorts of other recipes or drunk straight if you like coconut milk.

** Since this is a no-cook recipe, the sugar content needs to be in liquid form. I prefer the brown rice syrup over corn syrup, but you can use corn syrup or agave nectar here as a replacement.

Start by heating up your water to make the tea concentrate. Since we are using black tea here, we need to get the water to a boil, if you opt for another type of tea just follow the proper brewing instructions as if you were making a cup to drink. While the water heats up, take out your blender and put in the tofu, coconut cream, brown rice syrup and vanilla extract. Return to your boiling water and add the tea and allow to steep for 5 minutes. At the end of the 5 minutes, strain out the tea leaves and pour the tea concentrate into the blender. Next, run the blender until everything is blended together and smooth. You may need to stop the blender and scrap the sides to get all the brown rice syrup to properly mix in. Once the mixture is smooth, you will need to refrigerate it for at least 4 hours to get the temperature to drop enough for it to work properly in an ice cream machine. Once the mixture has cooled, follow the instructions on your ice cream machine and pour in the mixture and allow it to churn for the appropriate amount of time. It will come out with a soft serve consistence but will harden in the freezer. You will want to allow the ice cream to thaw for about 10 minutes to allow you to serve it easily.

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Golden Tipped Yunnan

Golden Tipped Yunnan

Yunnan Sunrise (aka Golden Tipped Yunnan)

Golden-tipped Yunnan also goes by the name Dianhong. Dian is the short name for the Yunnan province and hong means red tea, so the name is Yunnan Red tea. Keep in mind, what Americans and Europeans refer to as black tea is called red tea in China. The red refers to the color of the brew, while the black refers to the color of the leaf. Neither name is wrong, they just refer to different characteristics of the tea.

Origin of Golden Tipped Yunnan

As the name suggests it is produced in the Yunnan province of China. Known more for puerh and bricks of packed tea, Yunnan province did not move into producing loose tea until the late 1800′s to early 1900′s.  Their loose black teas are some of the most complex with rich flavor, most notably by the inclusion of golden buds in the black tea. Most notably the golden-tipped Yunnan is made from the cultivar Yunnan Dayeh, which has a broad leaf, stronger and thicker buds (making it easier to twist and keep whole at the same time), and an earlier sprouting meaning they are harvested in early March instead of late March, allowing the farmer to harvest more during the growing season.

Golden Tipped Yunnan Production

To produce the golden buds, there are additional steps in the production of this tea than in a typical black tea. As with all tea, after the leaves are plucked they are immediately withered in the sun or climate controlled warehouse to allow the leaves to be pliable and to remove around 60% of their moisture. Next they are rolled either with machine or by hand to help breakdown the cell membrane and speed along oxidation. Then the leaves are laid out and allowed to rest while they oxidize. After assessing the moisture of the leaves, they may be covered with wet cloths to speed the oxidation processes. This is where the Golden-tipped Yunnan deviates from the standard production. The leaves are not allowed to oxidize fully and a slow oxidation process is needed to control it properly so the cloths are not used. They are allowed partial oxidation with the tea master inspecting often to ensure those golden tips don’t turn fully black. They are dried by a variety of techniques by blowing warm air on the leaves. They are then sorted by size to be sold. In some cases, a second drying may occur to further reduce moisture if needed and increase the golden color.

Loose leaf Golden Tipped Yunnan after infusion.

Infused leaf of Golden Tipped Yunnan.

Golden tipped Yunnan (Yunnan Sunrise) has a beautiful mix of golden and black buds with a slightly hoppy smell. It brews a beautiful reddish-brown with a complex mix of orange, malty and smooth finish. The partial oxidation on the leaves allows this black tea to be brewed like an oolong, at lower temperatures, which produces a more creamy flavor.

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