The origins of tea stretch back more than 5 000 years, but its contributions to health, culture and socioeconomic development are still as relevant today. Tea is currently grown in very localized areas, and supports over 13 million people, including smallholder farmers and their households, who depend on the tea sector for their livelihoods.
International Tea Day is an opportunity to celebrate the cultural heritage, health benefits and economic importance of tea, while working to make its production sustainable “from field to cup” ensuring its benefits for people, cultures and the environment continue for generations.
Recognizing the long history and the cultural and economic significance of tea around the world, as well as the significant role it plays in rural development, poverty reduction and food security in developing countries, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 May as International Tea Day, calling on FAO to lead the observance.
Tea production and processing are a main source of livelihoods for millions of families. The celebration promotes the sustainable production, consumption, and trade of tea, and offers an opportunity for actors at global, regional and national levels to ensure that the tea sector continues to play a role in reducing extreme poverty, fighting hunger and safeguarding natural resources.
- Tea production and processing represent a source of livelihoods for millions of families, including millions in the least developed countries.
- The tea sector is a multi-billion dollar industry that can support economies and contribute to sustainable food systems.
- Tea export earnings help to finance food import bills, supporting the economies of major tea-producing countries.
- The tea sector contributes to socio-economic development, representing a major source of employment and income for millions of poor families worldwide.
- Tea thrives in very specific agro-ecological conditions and environments, which are often impacted by climate change.
- Smallholder tea producers need our support to strengthen their business model and environment and overcome the challenges they face.
- In order to ensure benefits for both people and the environment, the tea value chain must be efficient and sustainable at all stages, from field to cup.
Interesting facts about tea
Smallholder tea producers
Smallholders are responsible for
60 percent of world tea production.
Tea farmers around the world
It is estimated that in the four major producing countries (China, India, Kenya
and Sri Lanka), around 9 million tea
farmers are smallholders.
Tea is the most consumed beverage in
the world, after water.
Tea per capita consumption worldwide increased by 2.2 percent per year over
the last decade.
Global tea production
Global tea production amounts to
around USD 18.0 billion annually.
The value of total tea trade is estimated
at around USD 9.8 billion annually.
World tea production
In 2021, world production of tea reached
6.5 million tonnes.
Total imports of tea in 2021 amounted to
1.9 million tonnes.
FAO Intergovernmental Group
The FAO Intergovernmental Group on Tea leads multilateral efforts to support the world tea economy.
Did you know?
- Tea is one of the world’s oldest beverages and is the most consumed drink in the world, after water.
- Tea is available in many varieties, which differ according to the applied oxidation and fermentation technique.
- Tea cultivation provides employment and income to millions of smallholder growers, who are supplementing or even replacing production of larger tea estates in many countries.
- While three quarters of tea produced is consumed domestically, tea is a widely traded commodity.
- Over the past decades, the global tea industry has seen rapid growth, with a rising number of consumers globally.
- Despite the increase of tea consumption in the major producing countries, per capita consumption remains low, suggesting there is still considerable growth potential in these countries.
- China, Korea and Japan have four tea cultivation sites designated as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems by FAO.