Image: The Art of Broth; JAL; Mr. Lee’s

APEX Insight: Will the trend of drinking broth as tea receive a warm welcome from passengers?

The artisanal broth trend has simmered up in recent years, with travelers now drinking hot and savory stock from tumblers at the airport while waiting for their flights. But broth has a far longer culinary history. Indeed, what is widely accepted by historians as the first-ever restaurant, opened in Paris by a certain Mr. Boulanger in 1765, served only one dish: broth. The word “restaurant” referred to the restorative nature of Mr. Boulanger’s bouillons, not the place where they were served.

Today, consumers are divided into two camps: fans who swear by the stuff and detractors who decry it as an overpriced version of stock cubes. The former celebrate it for improving skin, aiding digestion and boosting the immune system – benefits many frequent flyers crave. The latter suspect that, like macarons and Cronuts, broth will attract queues of the hungry and curious, before being glibly dismissed as a hipster fad.

The Art of Broth can be credited for popularizing the trend in the air travel sector, after a partnership with HMSHost saw it bring steepable broth bags to 30 US airports last autumn. Unveiled at the 2017 International Flight Services Association Conference and Expo, the company’s Gourmet Sipping Broths are non-GMO, gluten-free, vegan and certified kosher.

“Our broths are for someone to bring to a business meeting or on an airplane,” – Jody Helfend, The Art of Broth

“We designed The Art of Broth for consumers to enjoy anytime, anywhere. Our broths are for someone to bring to a business meeting or on an airplane,” the company’s founder, Jody Helfend, says. “The travel industry and office workers were the two most logical business channels for us to develop.”

But soup in the sky is a well-established phenomenon, especially among Asian carriers: Japan Airlines partnered with Soup Stock Tokyo in March last year to serve Hokkaido corn stew to premium economy and economy passengers, while Korean Air has been proudly serving a traditional seaweed soup, called miyeok guk, for years. All Nippon Airways, however, may be more in tune with the latest development in the trend: The carrier is serving Kayanoya’s vegan onion-based stock by the cup. Jetstar Airways also offers savory vegan soups, such as Dragon Fire Vegetables from Mr Lee’s Noodles. “I think plant-based broths are in the nascency of their evolution,” Helfend says. “As the merits of a plant-based diet become universally known and embraced, The Art of Broth and other plant-based broths will see an exponential growth.”

Having garnered support on the ground, Helfend is now eyeing broth after takeoff: “We’re currently running a pilot test with several airlines. We look forward to serving airline customers in the months to come.” Perhaps there’s space for broth on the beverage cart after all. Coffee, tea or broth, anyone?

“Soup Ahoy!” was originally published in the 8.2 April/May issue of APEX Experience magazine.

Jordan juggles deadlines across various time zones as he writes about travel, culture, entertainment, and technology.