Tea Boiling

August 9/Orlando, Fla./States News Service -- Across the U.S., tea's popularity is soaring, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Total sales of tea in the U.S. advanced to $7.3 billion last year, up from its 2007 total of $6.9 million.

Retailers have attached tea rooms to some stores and opened new tea shops to meet the demand. Since 2000, the number of U.S. tearooms and specialty establishments has jumped from 240 to around 2,400, according to the Tea Association of the USA.

"In the retail business, unfortunately, during tough times, stores open and close all the time," said Joe Simrany, president of the Tea Council of the USA. However, "from a historical perspective, there's been a gigantic increase in the number of stores."

The health benefits of tea have driven its growth. For instance, a University of California, Los Angeles, discovered that drinking at least three cups of green or black tea daily can significantly lower the risk of stroke.

However, some experts wonder about tea's mainstream potential. Upscale tea appears to be "a niche market," said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic.

From the August 16, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition