Although it is unlikely that everyday coffee drinkers will switch completely over to tea (and vice versa) there may be potential for coffee consumers to add tea to their hot drinks routine. To capitalize on this opportunity, some tea manufacturers are seeking to integrate tea into the existing coffee landscape, by employing similar language and preparation techniques. An example of this effort is Dust&Glory, a German company, which sells finely ground rooibos and honeybush powder, called ‘espressi,’ that are designed to be brewed in the same manner as coffee. This hybrid tea and coffee concept demonstrates tea players’ innovative efforts to change consumer preferences from coffee or tea, to coffee and tea.
Dust&Glory: Turning Rooibos into Espresso
Dust&Glory’s story originates in South Africa, the epicentre of rooibos production. Rooibos, also known as redbush, is used to make an herbal, caffeine-free tea. The typical preparation of rooibos is similar to black teas, with milk and sugar often added. The high antioxidant content of rooibos and its lack of caffeine have led to its increasing popularity outside of its native South Africa, particularly in Western Europe and the US, where fruit/herbal teas dominate. While traveling in Wupperthal, a small village in the Western Cape Province known for its rooibos fields, the Peterka family found themselves longing for an espresso break. With coffee unavailable and the matriarch pregnant, the family experienced an aha moment, when, as Christopher Peterka, recalls, “the idea of re-inventing espresso slowly infected our brains.” This new interpretation involved simply substituting rooibos powder for ground coffee in their coffee maker. After establishing relationships with the Wupperthal Original Rooibos Co-operative, Dust&Glory was born.
Dust&Glory sells two products: rooibos and honeybush dust, called R- and H-Espresso. The teas not only evoke coffee in their name, but are also intended to be brewed just like coffee. The company’s website illustrates several different coffee machines, from a traditional espresso machine, to an Italian Moka stove-top brewer, to a French press, and even an Aeropress. By illustrating the compatibility of various coffee brewing devices with their teas, Dust&Glory is underscoring that coffee drinkers do not need to learn a new brewing method or buy additional paraphernalia to enjoy rooibos but can simply add R-Espresso to their coffee pantry. The seamless integration into coffee culture is deliberate. When asked about Dust&Glory’s core audience, Peterka replied, “The most demand that we see these days comes from coffee drinkers who really appreciate some fresh variation to their espresso and latte macchiato.”
Dust&Glory sells traditional coffee machines alongside its tea-espressos.
Source:(c) gannaca GmbH & Co. KG
Coffee Positioning in Tea
Dust&Glory is not the only example of rooibos-espresso products. In South Africa, rooibos-based drinks, called ‘red lattes’ or ‘red cappuccinos,’ are available in some coffee shops. This allusion to coffee drinks is also prevalent in foodservice, with specialist coffee shops like Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee and Tea offering various tea lattes. Some of the most common types include green tea (matcha in particular), and specialty black teas like Earl Grey and Masala Chai. The use of coffee language and preparation styles makes these tea-based drinks more accessible to coffee drinkers.
Yet, while these tea drinks may share similar names and composition, in terms of the use of steamed or foamed milk and sweetener, as speciality coffee drinks, their flavour profile and tastes remains distinctive. Although Dust&Glory’s tea powders can be brewed in an espresso machine, they result in a beverage that is very different from a true espresso, in the traditional coffee sense. Thus, while familiarity in style may attract the attention of coffee drinkers, tea drinks are still not a credible substitute for coffee, but rather an alternative. Cognizant of these limits, Dust&Glory is also careful to emphasize that its ‘espressi’ has benefits not found in actual espresso – namely rooibos’ natural health and wellness properties and lack of caffeine. The company’s goal is not to replace coffee in a consumer’s coffee fix, but rather provide them with another option. As Peterka explains “Why not kick your day off with a coffee, and then help yourself to red cappuccino after lunch, and finish the day with a honeybush-espresso macchiato that aids your metabolism before you go to sleep?”
Products like Dust&Glory are indicative of a new frontier in tea, one that is heavily steeped in innovation. This is not only an important direction for tea players looking to gain traction in coffee-dominant markets like North America and Western Europe, but also to generate more value through more premium formats. Although globally tea accounts for nearly twice the retail brewed volume as coffee, in 2013, it accounted for less than half the retail value. Premium products like Dust&Glory are one way to inject value into the tea market, which struggles from its commodity-like image. Still, while tea products couched in coffee language may be more accessible to coffee drinkers, the differences in taste and function between the two hot drinks is likely to require continued education by tea companies to sustain new consumers.