While some people still prefer to go on “coffee dates” and drink coffee whenever they are looking for a hot beverage, tea is the ultimate beverage. In fact, after water, tea is the 2nd most popular beverage in the world. Its usage and popularity has continued to rise, and many people prefer to drink different types of teas to reduce their caffeine intake and improve their health.
History suggests that tea originated from China, where it was used as a medicinal drink. In fact, it spread to the UK in the 17th century, where the Britons came to appreciate this beverage in a big way. The British call it “Cuppa,” which shows how deep tea is ingrained in their culture and traditions.
Recently, diet teas are gaining popularity, and they are rivaling black tea, which has been the most preferred type of tea in most parts of the world.
In terms of major tea producers in the world, China is the leader, followed by India and Kenya. With the rise in demand for tea, it is understandable why countries have been aiming to produce different varieties of tea to meet the growing demand.
According to statistics by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization for global tea production between 1993 and 2013, here are the top 10 major tea-producing countries in the world;
As mentioned earlier, it is believed that tea originated from China, and it therefore pretty obvious why China is the largest tea-producing nation in the world. No other country can boast of rich tea-drinking culture that dates back to over 5000 years ago apart from China. That’s why it is not surprising why China is the biggest producer of quality tea in the world.
In 2016, China produced 2,400 million kg of tea, and the numbers have continued to rise each year. In China, the tea-drinking culture is too rich such that tea is termed as one of the 7 basic necessities of life. Other necessities include salt, soy sauce, vinegar, rice, oil, and firewood. In other words, to Chinese people, tea is tightly woven into their culture and tradition.
In-country tea consumption in China is the highest in the world. According to 2016 statistics, China consumes 1.25 pounds a year, which means that everyone consumed an average of 1.5kgs of tea per year. This leaves only a small percentage of tea for export, which explains why China is the 3rd largest tea exporter in the world despite being the biggest producer of tea.
In 2016, China exported 332 million kg of tea, which accounts for 21% of total world tea export.
It is important to mention that the most popular type of tea produced in China is green tea, which is majorly grown in the provinces of Anhui, Fujian, and Zhejiang. In addition to green tea, China produces black tea. Black tea coming from China is mildly sweet and smoky.
It is also worth mentioning that China pioneered the production of tea varieties such as lychee tea, rose tea, and jasmine tea.
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With an annual production of 1,325,050 tons in 2017, India is the 2nd biggest producer of tea in the world. Just like China, India consumes most of its tea with its billion-plus population consuming over 70% of its total tea produce. This means there is little left for export.
As a result, India ranks fourth in terms of major tea exporters in the world market. It exported 241 million KGs of tea in 2017.
Most of the tea produced in India is black tea. Some of the renowned brand varieties of tea produced in India include Assam, Nilgiri, Kangra, and Darjeeling.
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Statistics from 2017 indicates that Kenya produced a total of 439,857 tons of tea. It ranks as the 3rd largest tea producer in the world. With a total tea growing area of 1577 sq. KM, Kenya, is the largest player when it comes to exporting tea. With a scarce population, it means that its domestic tea consumption is low. Therefore, there is a huge surplus left. In 2017, Kenya exported 416 million KG of tea.
The tea-growing areas have a tropical climate and receive a decent amount of rainfall. Averagely, these areas receive precipitation of between 1200mm and 1400mm per year. Kenya is gifted with good weather, whereby they have long sunny days for most times of the year.
Some of the popular tea varieties produced in Kenya include black tea, green tea, white tea, and yellow tea. Unlike in India and China, where tea is produced on a large scale, in Kenya, tea is produced in small plantations. In fact, 90% of the total tea produced in Kenya comes from small tea plantations.
The Kenya Tea Development Agency Holdings (KTDA) coordinates most of the tea production activities in the country. Over 565,000 people find direct employment in the tea production industry. Tea is one of the major cash crops in Kenya and the leading foreign exchange earner for the country.
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4. Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka ranks as the fourth major tea producer in the world and the 2nd best biggest player in the list of top world tea exporters.
Tea constitutes 15% of its export revenue, which means it is an important foreign exchange earner. Sri Lank hit an all-time record in its tea production in 2013, when it produced 340million KG of tea. In 2017, it produced 307 million KGs of tea.
Popularly known as Ceylon, its original name, Sri Lanka, majorly produces black tea that is majorly known for its rich, mellow flavor, pleasant natural aroma, and golden color.
Most of the high-quality tea coming from Sri Lank is produced in central highlands where the weather is ideal for the production of tea. These areas have decent precipitation, humidity, and temperatures.
As we have mentioned above, the most popular tea grown in Sri Lanka is black teas, and you can categorize it into three categories based on where it is grown
- Low grown, which is planted at plantations that are under a height of 650 m
- Medium grown, which is planted at plantations that are between 650 m and 1300 m
- High grown, which is planted at plantations that are between 1300m and 2500m
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According to FAO statistics of 2017, Vietnam produced around 260,000 tons of tea, with 60% of this tea being black tea. Green tea comprises of around 35 percent of total tea produced in this country.
Tea production in Vietnam started in 1880 when the French established the first plantation in Pho Tho. However, due to the Vietnam War, there was a decline in tea production, but recently, the amount of tea produced in Vietnam is constantly growing.
Vietnam tea producers are both small scale and large scale farmers. The large scale producers employ state of the art technology in their production methods, which is mostly capital intensive. The small scale growers majorly grow artisan teas such as jasmine teas and lotus.
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According to statistics from 2017, Turkey produced around 234,000 tons of tea. Most of this tea is produced in tea plantations concentrated on a region near Rize city. This area has a mild and humid climate and fertile soil.
Turkey exports over 40% of its total tea production while the rest is consumed domestically. The Turkish people are tea lovers and consume tea at an average rate of 2.5kg per person every year. They even have a higher average consumption rate than China.
Until the 15th century, Iran’s most preferred hot beverage was coffee. However, due to its distant location from countries that were producing coffee, it means that beans became hard to obtain. Due to its trade link with China, which was dubbed the ‘silk road’ tea was easier to get. And this is where the culture of tea drinking in Iran began.
Tea production in Iran started in 1882 with the current tea plantations covering an area of over 320 square KM and is majorly concentrated in hillside locations. In 2017, Iran produced a respectable 100,580 tons of tea.
The father of Iranian tea was Prince Mohammad Mirza, aka Kashef al Saltaneh, who was the first mayor of Tehran. He had a dream of planting tea in Iran. During the British colonization period, Kashef al Saltaneh was appointed an Iranian ambassador to India. At the time of his appointment, the East India Company were closely monitoring tea plantation and production techniques in India and safeguarding the secrets.
However, the Prince was determined to learn how tea was grown and processed, and he was ready to do anything to gain this knowledge. He disguised himself as a French laborer and got employed into one of the tea plantations. That’s when he learned how tea is grown.
He even exported some seed samples from India to Iran, which were planted in Gilan, Iran. This was when the famous era of tea growing in Iran took place, and it has continued to grow steadily to date.
Tea cultivation in Indonesia began in Java in 1878. The Dutch, who colonized Indonesia, succeeded in growing tea commercially from tea seeds that were imported from Assam gardens. They later expanded tea growing to Sumatra in the 1900s.
Currently, tea is grown in 13 provinces in Sumatra, Java, and Sulawesi in Indonesia. Most of the tea produced in Indonesia is quality, and many tea lovers love it. Indonesia produces around 140,000 tons of tea, with the majority of the tea being black tea.
Indonesia exports close to 65% of its domestic tea and but its brand in the world market is not well known. In most cases, tea from Indonesia is mixed and blended with other teas. It ranks as the fifth-largest tea exporter in the world.
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Japan is majorly known for Sencha and green tea. However, it lies 10th among major world tea producers with a production capacity of 81,119 tons in 2017.
Naturally, their major harvest is green tea, which is majorly grown in Kagoshima Prefecture, Shizuoka Prefecture, Mie Prefecture, Miyazaki Prefecture, Kyoto Prefecture, and Fukuoka Prefecture. Shizuoka is the most prominent region where most of the green tea is produced.
It is said that a Buddhist monk from China introduced tea to Japanese people. Japan consumes most of its tea, with only 2% being left for export. Some of the main tea varieties grown in Japan include Gyokuro, Bancha, and Sencha.
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This is the 10th largest producer of tea in the world. Argentina produced around 80,608 tons of tea in 2017.
The sub-tropical climate in Argentina makes it suitable for growing different tea variants. The major portion of tea grown in Argentina is black tea, with most of it being grown in high elevation areas of North Eastern provinces of Corrientes and Misiones. These areas have a high humid and hot climate that makes it suitable for tea to thrive in.
Most of the tea plantations in Argentina are situated in lands that have relatively flat topography, and thus, it is possible for them to use heavy machinery to harvest and process tea. The peak season for tea harvesting here is between November and May.
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There you have it; a list of top 10 major producers in the world. It is evident that until the end of the 19th century, tea production was concentrated in Asia. However, after that, it spread to Britain, Africa, and America. Many more countries have joined in tea production because of the rising global demand for tea.
Tea remains the 2nd most consumed drink globally, after water. It is produced in 40 countries around the world. The above top 10 tea producers are also the biggest exporters of tea, well, apart from Japan, which exports very little because most of its produce is consumed domestically.
Before we wind up this guide, it is important to pinpoint that most of the above countries produce black tea, with other teas being produced in demand. To enjoy black teas and other types of teas, you will need to get yourself the right teaware.
Tea brewing and serving should be made in a unique way so that you can keep enjoying your tea. Although there are many modern teaware you can use, the traditional teaware with modern designs still remains the best teaware for making tea the right way. Teaware, such as Yixing teapots, Chinese teacups, etc. will make you fall in love with your tea every day.
Therefore, while testing tea from different countries, make sure to use the right teaware to bring out the original flavor and taste of the different teas.
Here is our collection of best teaware you should try!