The world's second-most popular drink, after water, tea is a timeless, aromatic beverage enjoyed by people of all ages throughout the world. Said to have originated in China as a medicinal drink, tea became very popular in the British Empire during the 17th century, and soon exporting and importing of tea flourished throughout the world. With several health benefits, tea became one of the most consumed products around, as it helps with weight control, reduces high blood pressure, lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, and even increases bone mineral density.
Besides being inexpensive and delicious, tea demonstrates cavity-fighting properties, contains antioxidants, and hs significant antiviral properties, all of which make it popular in the medical industry as well. The consumption of tea has reached three billion cups a day, with varieties of tea produced in Africa, the Near East, South America, and in the Asian region. In its production and its consumption, it is a truly global commodity.
The consumption of tea reached around 3.64 million tons in 2006, with China leading the list in production. Because of the high demand for tea, commercial traders like Unilever, Tata Tea, Tekanne Group, PG Tips, and Associated British Foods have been able to globalize the market of tea in every nook and cranny of the world. With six main varieties of tea, namely black, white, green, yellow, oolong, and post-fermented tea; the export and import business of tea is gradually increasing throughout the world along with its production.
Here are the world’s largest importers and exporters of tea, arranged by amount in metric tonnes.
Top 5 Importers (Annually)
10 Vietnam: 104,700 Metric Tonnes
Tea in Vietnam is produced mostly on a commercial and industrial scale, and around 174,900 metric tonnes of tea is produced each year, worth $204,018,000 in the international market. The average price of tea exported from Vietnam is worth $1,340 per tonne, which is very high in comparison to other countries. However, Vietnamese tea is exported to 61 countries in the world, of which a very low amount is exported to European and American nations. Taiwan and Pakistan import almost all of their tea supplies from Vietnam.
9 India: 203,207 Metric Tonnes
India has also consistently been a major hub of tea production in the world. Amounting to 23% of global production, India produces 966,733 metric tonnes of tea every year, and exports around 203,207 metric tonnes of tea, worth $867,143,000, annually - a 12% share in the international market. Several farmlands in Darjeeling and Assam have become famous all around the world thanks to Tata tea; one of the major commercial tea brands in India. Indian tea is considered by some to be the best in the world, thanks to good processing and strategic market expansion.
8 China: 299,789 Metric Tonnes
Tea is incredibly important in China, which is the largest tea-producing country in the world. China dominated the international market in tea exports until the 1880s, and ranks third on the list today. However, most of the tea grown in China is consumed within the country, and so only a small portion is exported internationally. With annual production of 1,640,310 metric tonnes annually, only 299,789 metric tons, worth $965,080,000, are exported in the international market. All told, China contributes about 35% of the total amount of tea grown around the world.
7 Sri Lanka: 318,329 Metric Tonnes
Tea production and export has been the major source of this Asian country's economy, and accounts for around 2% of the GDP of Sri Lanka. The tea industry got its commercial start in the country in 1847, thriving in Sri Lanka's cool and humid environment. Overally, it’s the fourth-largest tea producing country in the world, and second on the list of the largest exporters. Producing a total of 327,500 metric tonnes of tea, 318,329 tonnes are exported to the international community, accounting for roughly $1.48 billion annually. About 23% of the total export of tea in the international market is provided by Sri Lanka alone, and the product accounts for roughly 60% of Srilanka's export profit.
6 Kenya: 396,641 Metric Tonnes
With more than 111,000 hectors of land for tea production, Kenya ranks highest on the list of the largest exporters of tea around the world. Contributing from 17-20% of the country’s total export revenue, Kenya exports 396,641 metric tonnes of tea annually, a number that has grown by about 39% over a decade. 80% of the total tea produced in Kenya comes from small scale farmers, with the remaining a product of large scale operations. The product is collected, processed, and refined for exports worth $858,250,000, a contribution of around 28% of the total tea exported in the international market.
Top 5 Importers (Annually)
5 Egypt: 107,586 Metric Tonnes
Egypt ranks among the top importers of tea in Africa, and imports around 23% of its tea supply from Kenya. Tea is the national drink of Egypt, which makes it one of the most highly-imported goods in its economic market. About 107,586 metric tonnes of tea, worth $308,452,000, is imported annually in the country, mostly from Kenya and Sri Lanka. The Egyptian government considers it a strategic crop, and runs tea plantations in Kenya as well. With the increasing demand of high quality and low priced tea in Egypt, India marketers have stepped up in exporting CTC tea to Egypt.
4 United Arab Emirates: 109,575 Metric Tonnes
The United Arab Emirates ranks fourth on the list of the biggest tea importers, but is also the world's leading country in tea re-exporting. Tea is brought into the country in raw form, and the industries in the country refine, polish, package and sell the product back to the international market at a higher price. Around 108,575 metric tonnes of tea is imported annually in this country – about 10% higher than the imports in the last decade. Annually, an amount of tea worth $485,768,000 is brought into the country, mostly from India and China, and then re-exported to countries like Iran and Oman after the product is refined and packaged.
3 United States Of America: 116,746 Metric Tonnes
Tea, in various sweetened and unsweetened forms, is one of the most popular drinks in the United States and the consumption has been increasing at a very high rate after the 90s. With the invention of tea bags, consumption in the United States has grown. Several varieties of tea, flavored and unflavored, blended and premium, have been imported from various parts of the world. The United States imports a total of 116,746 metric tonnes of tea every year to supply its demand, and also as part of the tea bag packaging industry. About $ 318,535,000 worth of tea is brought in every year.
2 United Kingdom: 157,593 Metric Tonnes
Since the British Empire was at its peak, tea has been regarded as a very high class drink in the United Kingdom. Because of that, the United Kingdom has been one of the largest tea-consuming countries in the world, with an average person consuming around 1.9 kg of tea per year. The invention of tea bags further increased the consumption of tea in the country. Around 165 million cups of tea is consumed each day in the United Kingdom, and around 157,593 metric tonnes of tea is imported annually, mostly coming from China and India. The country imports tea to the tune of $367,564,000.
1 Russia: 181,859 Metric Tonnes
Russia is one of the global leaders in tea consumption, and the country that imports the highest amount of tea in the world. According to KPMG analysts, people in Russia drink around four cups of tea daily, driving up the domestic value of the tea industry to $510,872,000 each year. Russia imports around 181,859 metric tonnes of tea annually from several international tea traders. Kenya and Srilanka have been the major countries to export tea to Russia, while the high cost of tea in India has caused a minimum amount of tea to be imported from India.