Berlin-based Jens de Gruyter has a lifelong passion for tea, exploring its many varieties and anticipating the latest market trends.

When The Coca-Cola Company launched FUZE Tea in Europe earlier this month, we caught up with Jens for his expert view of why tea – even when it’s served ice cold – is so hot with people all over the world.

How did you come to be a ‘Tea Master’?

I’ve been involved in tea for my whole life. It began in my childhood when my godfather, who himself traded in fine tea, first inspired an appreciation for tea that grew the more I learned about it and experienced it. Later, during the course of my studies and professional life, tea really became my personal elixir, my fuel. Eventually, I decided to pursue this hobby and passion and make it my vocation and career. I’m now a tea merchant and trader and run my own specialty tea company in Berlin, P & T, Paper & Tea.

What does your work involve?

A big part of my job is getting people interested in tea and encouraging them to taste teas and learn what an exciting, enjoyable and powerful product tea is. It’s a great time to be doing this, as all over the world people are discovering a new passion for tea, in all its varieties.

Why is tea back in fashion?

I think we’re seeing dynamics similar to the growth in wine appreciation, which hit Europe in the ‘80s and North America in the ‘90s. And then there was the boom in specialty coffee, beginning in the 90s. Now it’s the turn of tea.

People are recognizing that there’s so much more to tea than a teabag. It’s fascinating to discover the varieties out there – not only in terms of types and flavour profiles, but also applications. Whether that’s high-end loose leaf tea, bottled ready-to-drink tea or even tea used as an ingredient in foods and cosmetics. In fact in terms of application, formats and ways of enjoying it, tea is mankind’s most versatile natural product invention.

Tea is a vast, beautiful world, full of variety. And in terms of aroma, even broader than coffee and wine. It’s one of those things; the more you learn about it and experience it, the more you’ll want to know.

'Tea is mankind’s most versatile natural product invention.'

What’s your take on ready-to drink tea?

It’s the fastest-growing tea category, even ahead of speciality tea. That’s because of the convenience – being able to enjoy tea anywhere, anytime – coupled with the fact that people want healthier choices.

Ready-to-drink tea is driven by two dynamics: a trend towards more tea taste and less sugar, and a more adventurous approach to complementary ingredients. We’re seeing really exciting and surprising flavor and aroma profiles using botanicals and fruits. This is a big step on from the classic American-style iced tea, where it all started.

Which types of tea are growing fastest?

Europe and the western world are still black tea oriented. But we’re seeing that change very quickly. Green tea is growing fast because of the associated health benefits of drinking a less oxidised tea. White tea is really interesting, too – that’s one oxidation level before green tea. Oolong tea – very common in China and Taiwan – is getting more popular, too. So, it’s definitely opening up from European, British, Dutch tea traditions into something much more varied.

'The art of blending is as old as tea itself.'

Where does FUZE Tea fit into this varied picture?

It perfectly meets consumers’ desire for convenience, coupled with less sugar and exciting blends with other natural ingredients. This art of blending is as old as tea itself. In that way, FUZE Tea is following a fine tradition, re-booted for the modern consumer – especially Millennials, who are very health conscious and enjoy pushing boundaries with different flavor compositions.