ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Wegmans Food Markets is testing its first-ever tea bar at a store in Pittsford, N.Y.
“Nestled between our pharmacy and Nature's Marketplace [department], we've created a one-of-a-kind destination for customers to experience tea as they never have before,” Lynne Freeman, Wegmans' employee communications director, said in a video posted on the company's website.
“Popularity of loose-leaf tea is growing, and like cheese and wine, it's all about educating our customers about the various regions and types of tea.”
With light wooden shelving accented by steel tea canisters, the simple elegance of the staffed bar is inspired by Japanese tea houses. Seating for 12 provides customers the opportunity to explore a variety of loose teas, selecting either a small pot of a single variety, or a sampler of three teas chosen by Wegmans' experts.
“The tea bar offers ‘flights’ of everything from white to green to herbal teas, along with a healthy dose of education from our employees about why tea is so good for you,” said Freeman.
A growing body of research regarding the health benefits of tea has certainly helped boost sales of the beverage, whether it's packaged in a bottle, a box or a bag. U.S. sales have risen from $1.84 billion in 1990 to $6.5 billion last year, and are expected to continue growing at more than 10% per year in the near term, according to a recent report by Joseph P. Simrany, president of the Tea Association of the USA, New York.
“Tea is a wonderful beverage,” Wegmans nutritionist Jane Andrews said in a release. “As a plant-based beverage loaded with powerful antioxidants, tea is nutritious and revitalizing. It seems to have antibacterial effects. Good studies show that tea drinkers have fewer cavities, because the bacteria that cause plaque don't stick. Also, tea has proven anti-viral effects.”
In spite of encouraging data presented in a number of small, highly publicized studies, the jury is still out on whether tea can help fight cancer, lower cholesterol or help people lose weight. But, Andrews noted, teas add micronutrients to water without adding too many calories or too much caffeine, and she said that tea can be a good alternative to high-calorie beverages such as juice, smoothies, energy drinks or specialty coffee drinks like frappes.