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The Next Big Thing? Saicho Sparkling Tea Review

August 28, 2020 by Jonathan Paxley

Is Saicho Sparkling Cold Brew Tea the next big thing in the zero abv category?

As the burgeoning no/low category continues to flourish, there is no shortage of new launches that are trying to get a piece of the action.

And to be honest, it’s welcome.

The non-alcoholic category has been neglected for many years and non-drinkers had severely limited options that offered either a juice, Kaliber (remember that!) or Coca-Cola.

Now we are blessed with a multitude of innovative options.

A new brand that has recently caught our eye here is from Saicho, a non-alcoholic, cold brew tea brand.

Recently launched by husband and wife team, Charlie and Natalie Winkworth-Smith, the brand came about due to (as is often the case) a lack of quality “grown-up” soft drinks available on the market. Blended with the pairing of food in mind, they have crafted something unique to the drinks industry.

The launch range is really intriguing.

Each product is made with a different tea variety including Darjeeling, Hojicha and Jasmine, which are lightly tempered with white grape juice and citrus that softens the dryness of the tea and lets the complexity of the tea flavours shine through.

Now, we are not sure how many tea aficionados we have in our audience, but the three tea varieties the Saicho team have brought us, have a real depth of flavour and intricate character.

According to Mary Lou and Robert J. Heiss in The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook: A Guide to the World’s Best Teas, there are over 20,000 varieties of tea globally, so it is clear this is a category within the no/lo umbrella that has a huge amount of potential.

So What Did We Think?

First impressions count for a lot and the packaging and branding are on point, giving the brand a premium feel that is in line with the market position we think they are aiming for. Getting product-market fit right for any brand is super important and the Saicho team have nailed this.

Taste-wise, we enjoyed the products, they are unusual and satisfying and offer something ready to drink that’s unique, both in its core ingredient of tea, but also it’s lack of reliance of sugar like some of its counterparts.

In terms of what to expect, they are complex, which is no surprise given the key ingredient is cold brewed tea.

The Hojicha packs some punch – it’s a smoky and rich drink that is kept in check by the grape juice and citrus. The tasting notes suggest seaweed undertones which we definitely got – particularly on the nose.

The Darjeeling is delicious. The flavour is excellent with a musky sweetness and a very distinct fruity undertone. It will undoubtedly be a popular product as it perfectly treads the line between grown-up complexity and youthful fruitiness.

The Jasmine was another bullseye and will appeal to yet another palate. Delicate, lots of floral notes but with enough sweetness kicking through to satisfy those palates that need something a little easier to quaff.

A revelation for us…Jasmine and grape are a match made in heaven. They work extremely well together, as both are delicate but with complementary flavours. It’s a winning combination that’s going to win a lot of fans.

Our Verdict

The Saicho range is great, it’s been well thought through and has flavours to satisfy every palate.

The interesting thing with these drinks is they offer mouthfeel that most non-alcoholic drinks just can’t and this is largely down to the robustness of the tea coupled with the grape and citrus. This is a real win as it will give those drinkers who have to abstain something akin to an alcoholic drink.

Often this is the issue with non-alcoholic alternatives, they don’t offer any of the bite or burn of alcohol which can cause an indifference in the consumer.

These drinks will have some serious appeal, the branding and product will be something top bars will be happy to have stocked in the fridges and the day to day consumers will undoubtedly be won over by this unique proposition.

Overall, we would say is the Hojicha is a tricky customer, not for the mainstream but probably akin to a peaty scotch like Laphroaig, you either love it or you hate it.

The Darjeeling and Jasmine flavours will be the biggest sellers, they are both accessible, have some great flavours going on that people will really love.

So top marks to the team, we look forward to seeing which of the worlds 20,000 tea varieties next gets the Saicho treatment.



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