There are about 7.4 billion people on earth right now. Most of those people drink water—and TEA.
Which means we have to grow a lot of tea!
Global tea production going up and up
As you might expect, there is an entity that keeps track of these things, and so the International Tea Committee (ITC) reports that for this past year:*
- tea production has doubled in the past two decades!
- in 2016, 5,462,718 tons of tea were produced
- China, India, and Kenya produced 75% of the world’s tea (China alone harvested 43%)
More tea was produced in 2016 than in 2015, even though Sri Lanka is suffering an ongoing drought that really hit their tea production (and which will likely impact this year’s harvest as well). Kenya picked up the slack, sharply increasing its output of CTC black tea (although India still produces most of the world’s black tea).†
Yet, all of this tea isn’t coming to the U.S.
Rather, the tea is largely staying in the countries where it was produced, especially since our last Great Recession.
Ten years ago, 41% of tea was exported.
In 2016, only 32% was exported—meaning that 68% of the tea is being consumed in the country that produced it.*
Will this trend continue?
According to the ITC, less tea is being drunk in the developed world because (1) the number of people in these countries is not growing and (2) their disposable income is declining.
In China, however, tea consumption is going up 15% yearly. So the country is increasing tea production but then keeping more of it for their own citizens.
Likewise, most of the tea produced in Japan remains in the country.
So, although less tea is being exported, tea consumption is increasing—just in different places than in years past.
The forecast for tea production in 2017?
Not great, with weather problems continuing to plague many countries. Besides the drought in Sri Lanka, Assam is being slammed by weather-related issues, and China had its coldest spring in decades. It is thought that exports out of Kenya and Vietnam will continue to increase, however.
But meanwhile, costs continue to rise. Combined with a strong U.S. dollar, this portends less investment, according to the ITC.
All of this could mean less tea for all tea lovers, no matter where we call home. Let’s hope that the tea pictured here—Darjeeling Rarity—is not a predictor of tea in general!
*Bolton, D. “Tea production continues steady climb as exports slide,” World Tea News. May 22, 2017.
†Sundar, P. S. “Global black tea production up in 2016,” The Hindu Business Line. January 2, 2017.
Note: Darjeeling Rarity shown above is available from TeaHaus.