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University research helps create buzz for high caffeine black tea

Posted: 3rd February 2017

A new Scottish drinks producer has used university expertise to develop a supercharged tea that packs a punch similar to coffee. Hi Tea, which contains three times the level of caffeine found in a normal cup of tea, will give tea lovers the taste of their favourite drink with an extra buzz that’s sure to keep their energy levels up throughout the day.


The entrepreneurs behind Hi Tea enlisted food experts from Queen Margaret University (QMU), Edinburgh to develop the new supercharged tea concept. The company wanted to create a new beverage that would be acceptable to existing tea drinkers and to consumers who may not enjoy coffee but who were still looking for a high caffeine hit.


Laura Ewing from Hi Tea, explained: “The daily consumption of tea in the UK is around 165 million cups, compared with approximately 70 million cups of coffee. Although mainstream tea sales have slumped in recent years, the growth of premium and speciality teas has grown. We believed there was a gap in the market for a tasty tea black tea which could offer similar qualities to coffee, but we needed to partner with food specialists at QMU to help us carry out consumer research. In addition, we required specialist support to review our ingredients, develop a recipe for tea bags and assess caffeine levels.”


Experts from QMU’s Scottish Centre for Food Development and Innovation were able to advise on the development of the product by conducting taste testing panels and consumer feedback sessions.  This helped to gauge acceptability levels from keen tea drinkers to the tea blends initially selected by the company. Taste panels also helped to confirm if consumers could distinguish any adverse bitterness from the addition of caffeine in the new Hi Tea product when comparing against standard black tea.


Catriona Liddle from QMU’s Scottish Centre for Food Development and Innovation, explained:    “The trend for tea supplemented with synthetic caffeine has come over from the US.  Synthetic caffeine is a common additive in energy drinks, but for this project it was important that a natural UK source was identified.  QMU was able to source caffeine that was not only natural, but had none of the characteristic bitterness normally associated with synthetic sources of this ingredient. A formulation was then created enabling Hi Tea to produce a blend fortified with natural caffeine but tasting like everyday tea. In addition, we were able to ascertain the base level of caffeine found in the tea leaves used by Hi Tea and supplement this with the ideal levels in order to reach the target amount.


“Nowadays, a lot of tea drinkers don’t use loose tea. Many prefer the convenience of tea bags. We recognised that tea lovers prepare their favourite drink in different ways, so we encouraged taste testers to take the tea samples home with them to allow them to prepare it in the way they normally would on a daily basis. The tasters were able to provide feedback to us via a specialist questionnaire created by QMU academics.”


Queen Margaret University was able to provide Hi Tea with the support it needed to develop a first to UK market blend of high caffeine black tea which is unique to Hi Tea and highly acceptable to the tea drinking target market.


The company has now launched Hi Tea, which is available in two sizes of stylish tubs containing 30 or 80 organic everyday tea bags fortified with natural caffeine. The product is 100% natural and has zero calories and sugars. The tea can be bought online at: Tea product shots

Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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