High up in the mountains of Rwanda’s Western Province, Josephine Nyirakarenga works on a tea plantation in one of the hardest-to-reach areas, 2,400 metres above sea level
High up in the mountains of Rwanda’s Western Province, Josephine Nyirakarenga works on a tea plantation in one of the hardest-to-reach areas, 2,400 metres above sea level. © UNICEF/UNI213237/Rudakubana

Why drink tea?

Tea is a beverage made from the Camellia sinesis plant. Tea is the world’s most consumed drink, after water. It is believed that tea originated in northeast India, north Myanmar and southwest China, but the exact place where the plant first grew is not known. Tea has been with us for a long time. There is evidence that tea was consumed in China 5,000 years ago.

Tea production and processing constitutes a main source of livelihoods for millions of families in developing countries and is the main means of subsistence for millions of poor families, who live in a number of least developed countries.

The tea industry is a main source of income and export revenues for some of the poorest countries and, as a labour-intensive sector, provides jobs, especially in remote and economically disadvantaged areas. Tea can play a significant role in rural development, poverty reduction and food security in developing countries, being one of the most important cash crops.

Tea consumption can bring health benefits and wellness due to the beverage's anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and weight loss effects. It also has cultural significance in many societies.

International Tea Day

Re-emphasizing the call from the Intergovernmental Group on Tea to direct greater efforts towards expanding demand, particularly in tea-producing countries, where per capita consumption is relatively low, and supporting efforts to address the declining per capita consumption in traditional importing countries, the General Assembly decided to designate 21 May as International Tea Day.

The Day will promote and foster collective actions to implement activities in favour of the sustainable production and consumption of tea and raise awareness of its importance in fighting hunger and poverty.

Tea production and the Sustainable Development Goals

Tea production and processing contributes to the reduction of extreme poverty (Goal 1), the fight against hunger (Goal 2), the empowerment of women (Goal 5) and the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems (Goal 15).

Moreover, there is an urgent need to raise public awareness of the importance of tea for rural development and sustainable livelihoods and to improve the tea value chain to contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Tea and climate change

Tea production is highly sensitive to changes in growing conditions. Tea can only be produced in narrowly defined agro-ecological conditions and, hence, in a very limited number of countries, many of which will be heavily impacted by climate change.

Changes in temperature and rainfall patterns, with more floods and droughts, are already affecting yields, tea product quality and prices, lowering incomes and threatening rural livelihoods. These climate changes are expected to intensify, calling for urgent adaptation measures. In parallel, there is a growing recognition of the need to contribute to climate change mitigation, by reducing carbon emissions from tea production and processing.

Therefore, tea-producing countries should integrate climate change challenges, both on the adaptation and mitigation front, into their national tea development strategies.

Events

  • First Observance of the International Tea Day: Harnessing benefits for all from field to cup — 21 May 2020 at 14:00 hours (Rome time). Watch the webcast.

The first International Tea Day was celebrated virtually and was opened by FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu.  It brought together the world’s countries where tea cultivation is an important source of jobs and incomes. During the ceremony, speakers selected a variety of tea and talked about its properties while linking it to a typical cultural experience in the region. The observance also highlighted four of the tea sites recognized as part of world´s agricultural heritage and linked to the FAO´s Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) programme.

  • Tea for Sustainable Development — virtual observance in New York  — 21 May 2020 at 10:00 hours (ETD). Watch the webcast.

An interactive dialogue with Permanent Representatives from major tea-consuming and producing countries, co-organised by FAO and the Mission of China, focused on tea culture, tea’s role in poverty eradication, as well as sustainable production and consumption of tea in response to COVID-19.  It featured the participation of Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, President of General Assembly.

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>> Facilitated by FAO

Resources

Related Observances

Watch

 

Tea is not only a healthy drink. Tea is central to our cultures. From China to Argentina. From India to Kenya.

Four tea sites recognized by FAO as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems.

John Snell, a tea expert, on the 5 attributes he looks for in tea.

 

Women from the Songhai and Bella ethnic groups share a moment of relaxation, drinking tea in Gao, Mali

Food is at the core of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UN's development agenda for the 21st century. The second of the UN's 17 SDGs is to "End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture." Achieving this goal by the target date of 2030 will require a profound change of the global food and agriculture system.

 

Harvesting leaves, two tea-pickers make their way through a field of tea in Kenya

Global tea consumption and production are projected to keep rising over the next decade, driven by robust demand in developing and emerging countries. This will create new rural income opportunities and improve food security in tea-producing countries, according to the report "Current Market Situation and Medium Term Outlook".

 

International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.