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Celebrating Tea in Its International Day!

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Human Wrongs Watch

20 May 2021 (FAO)* — 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 [21 May] 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.

Celebrating tea

Recognizing the long history and deep cultural and economic significance of tea around the world, 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, particularly in developing countries. 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.

The first observance of the International Tea Day was celebrated in a virtual event that brought together the world’s top tea exporting and importing countries as well as major producing countries where tea cultivation is an important source of revenues.

Watch here the recording of the celebration.

Key messages
  • Tea production and processing represent a source of livelihoods for millions of families, including millions in least developed countries.
  • Tea export earnings help to finance food import bills, supporting the economies of major tea-producing countries.
  • The specific agro-ecological conditions where tea thrives occur in areas which are highly vulnerable to climate change.
  • Global trade in 2020 was affected by logistics issues and measures imposed to contain COVID-19.
  • Increasing in-home consumption of tea more than offset declining out-of-home consumption in many instances.
  • During the first weeks of lockdown, in home tea sales surged, increasing by 75 percent in some consuming countries.
  • In order to ensure benefits for both people and the environment, the tea value chain must be sustainable at all stages, from field to cup.
Interesting facts about tea

Smallholders are responsible for 60 percent of world tea production.

Tea supports the livelihoods of 9 million smallholder farmers in the four main producing countries (China, India, Kenya and Sri Lanka).

Global tea production amounts to over 17.0 USD billion.

Tea is the most consumed beverage in the world, after water.

Tea per capita consumption worldwide increased by 2.8 percent per year over the last decade.

Tea production and trade contribute to livelihoods, export earnings, food security and incomes in many parts of the world, especially in some of the poorest rural areas.

Tea thrives in very specific agro-ecological conditions and in certain environments which, today, are often impacted by climate change.

The FAO Intergovernmental Group on Tea leads multilateral efforts to support the world tea economy.

Combining heritage with future

The FAO Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) programme to date, has designated almost 60 sites as dynamic spaces where culture, biodiversity and sustainable agricultural techniques coexist, proving to be vital to achieve food security and generate livelihoods.

China, Korea and Japan have 4 tea cultivation sites designated as Globally Important  Agricultural Heritage Systems by FAO. These sites that represent evolving systems of human communities in an intricate relationship with their territory, cultural and agricultural landscape.

Throughout the years, the aroma of their millenary tea varieties has made its way into the hearts and minds of many tea drinkers around the world, one leaf at a time.

Did you know?
  • Tea is one of the world’s oldest beverages, and is the most consumed drink in the world.
  • 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 and exported 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 major producing countries, per capita consumption remains low, suggesting there is still considerable growth potential in these countries.
  • Drinking tea can bring many healthy benefits, from anti-inflammatory to antioxidant and weight loss effects.
  • China, Korea and Japan have 4 tea cultivation sites designated as Globally Important  Agricultural Heritage Systems by FAO.


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