When we think of tea production, the first country that comes naturally to most of our minds is probably China, since China is the birthplace of tea. After China, Japan, India, Sri Lanka and Taiwan are all considered to be the traditional origins for tea. Together, teas from these five countries set the standards to which teas from all other nations are compared.
Today, at least forty-six countries over six continents are producing tea. While some countries consume nearly all the tea that they produce, others export practically all their tea. For example, Turkey is the fifth largest tea producer of the world, but its tea export amount is minimal because Turkey has the highest per capita tea consumption in the world, according to most surveys. Indonesia, on the other hand, has one of the lowest tea consumption rates in the world. It exports most of the tea it produces.
Although most of the tea growing countries are in Asia, the number of tea growing countries in Africa is almost just as many. As a matter of fact, Kenya is the world’s top exporter of black tea as of 2017 with a 23% share, followed by China (18%) and Sri Lanka (15%). Owing to each place’s unique terroir, history, purpose and market, teas from different regions, very often, have their own distinctive qualities.
Below are the 15 countries that produced the highest amount of tea (in metric tons) in 2017:
- China – 2,609,000
- India – 1,321,760
- Kenya – 439,858
- Sri Lanka – 307,720
- Turkey – 255,404
- Vietnam – 175,000
- Indonesia – 136,481
- Argentina – 82,000
- Bangladesh – 78,979
- Japan – 78,800
- Uganda – 53,887
- Malawi – 45,582
- Tanzania – 31,814
- Rwanda – 27,887
- Nepal – 24,200
In the U.S., the attempt to produce tea had started even before we became a nation. During these almost 300 years, there have been many ups and downs in this endeavor. So far, the most well-known tea plantation in the U.S. is probably the one in Charleston, South Carolina, which is currently owned by Bigelow Tea. Other known efforts are in Hawaii and Washington. The dollar value worth of tea we import is almost four times that of the tea we export.
Below are the 15 countries that exported the highest (US) dollar value worth of tea during 2018:
- China - $1.8 billion (23% of total tea exports)
- Kenya - $1.4 billion (17.7%)
- Sri Lanka - $942.2 million (12.1%)
- India - $763.2 million (9.8%)
- United Arab Emirates - $295 million (3.8%)
- Germany - $252 million (3.2%)
- Vietnam - $225.1 million (2.9%)
- Poland - $203.1 million (2.6%)
- Japan - $142.2 million (1.8%)
- United Kingdom - $140.7 million (1.8%)
- United States - $124.4 million (1.6%)
- Taiwan - $111.9 million (1.4%)
- Indonesia - $108.4 million (1.4%)
- Russia - $97.9 million (1.3%)
- Malawi - $91.6 million (1.2%)
By value, the listed 15 countries shipped 85.7% of global tea exports in 2018.