Consumption of green tea products rose by 87 per cent between 2000 and 2003, contrasting sharply with the downward trend in hot drink consumption across Europe.
The figures suggest that despite the fact that many studies on green tea have looked at the ability of extracts to fight cancer cells in laboratory experiments, the findings are filtering through to create a positive overall health image for consumers.
"The health issue is probably the most important factor behind this growth but beyond that consumers are looking for something different and the health benefit is a bonus," Zenith analyst Anya Bourke told NutraIngredients.com.
"Claiming that the tea is rich in antioxidants is probably the number one claim being used," she added.
Bourke said that many flavoured and combination varieties are also drawing on the health benefits from additional ingredients like ginger, to promote digestion, or ginseng for energy levels.
The report found 18 pure green tea variants present on the UK market, and almost 40 flavoured versions, offered by 37 different companies. Jackson's of Piccadilly, Twinings and Clipper are the three leading brands.
Zenith believes additional marketing and promotional support will help push green tea volumes up more than 80 per cent again to 2,100 tonnes by 2007 from 1,150 tonnes in 2003.
Consumption will remain significantly lower than that of black tea, although this more traditional type has been declining. A report from Datamonitor in 2003 revealed that British consumers bought only 114 million kg of normal teabags in 2002, compared to 127 million kilograms in 1997.
However black tea suppliers are beginning to take tips from the strong growth seen in green tea to renew sales.
"People don't seem to associate health properties with black tea, although the tea companies are working hard on promoting these too," explained Bourke.
The UK's tea trade body the Tea Council is currently running a campaign that promotes up to four cups of tea a day for health benefits. Some companies are claiming that black tea 'is just as good for you as green tea'.
Other features highlighted by the report are consumer interest in organic and fairtrade products as well as the choice of decaffeinated or ready to drink options.