China is the only country in the world with a long glorious history of tea. That is why, no other civilization in the world can boast of a tea tradition that is older than 5000 years. Hence it is little wonder that China is the biggest producer of tea in the world. It produced around 2,400 million kg in 2016, which is increasing significantly each year. No surprise that, in Chinese culture, tea is one of the seven basic necessities of life. Others are firewood, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce and vinegar. Tea is inseparably woven into the history and culture of China.
In proportion to a huge population, the tea consumption in China too is the highest in the world. As per record, China consumed 2,000 million kg of its total production in 2016, which is a whopping 1.5 kg per person per year! Hence it can spare only a small fraction of its total production to the export market. Thus China is the third in the list of largest tea exporters in the world. With total export volume of 332 million kg in the year 2016, its share in the world tea export market was 21%. Most of the tea produced in China is green tea. Tea is grown in the provinces of Anhui, Zhejian and Fujian. China produces a sizeable amount black tea also. The Chinese black tea is mild, sweet and smoky. China is also the pioneer in production of tea varieties like Jasmine, Rose and Lychee tea.
It is the second biggest producer of tea in the world with an annual production hovering around 1,279 million kg in 2017. With a billion plus population, India consumes 70% of its total produce. As a result, it has very little amount of surplus tea left for export. Hence India ranks fourth in the list of tea exporters. India exported 241 million kg of tea in 2017. Most of the teas India produces are of the black tea category. Some of the well-known regional brand varieties India produces are the Assam, Darjeeling, Nilgiri, Dooars, Kangra etc. To know more about tea growing places in India, please read Tea growing areas in India.
Kenya produces a total of about 473 million kg of made tea in the year 2016. It is the third largest tea producer in the world. Tea is grown in a total area of 1577 square km in Kenya. The Kenyan tea growing region has a tropical climate with decent rainfall. It gets a precipitation in the range of 1200 mm to 1400 mm per year. Kenya is gifted with a long sunny day. With a scarce population, its domestic consumption of tea is very little. Hence with a huge surplus, Kenya is the largest player among the tea exporters in the world. It exports almost ninety percent of its total production. Kenya exported 416 million kg of tea in 2017
Though Kenya produces mostly black teas, green tea, yellow tea, and white teas are also produced according to demand. A heaven for small tea growers, small tea plantations contributes around ninety percent of the total tea in Kenya.
Sri Lanka’s rank among the biggest producers of tea in the world is fourth. But it is the second biggest and a very important player in the list of world tea exporters. Being the most important export commodity, Sri Lanka earns about 15% of its total export revenue from tea. It produced around 340 million kg of tea in 2013, which is an all time record. In the year 2017, Sri Lanka produced 307 million kg.
Vietnam produced around 214 million kg of tea in the year 2013. Out of this, 60% is black tea. Green tea constitutes around 35% of its total tea production. The French started the first plantation in Pho Tho in 1880. Its tea industry passed through a stagnation during the Vietnam War. However, it bounced back after the war is over. Vietnam’s tea industry has both large and small scale producers. The large producers use state of the art technology with highly capital intensive production methods. The small scale growers produce mostly specialty artisan teas like lotus, jasmine teas etc.
Turkey produced around 212 million kg of tea in 2013. It is marginally above 6% of total world tea production. Most of the Turkish tea plantation is concentrated on a region near the city of Rize. This area has a humid and mild climate along with a fertile soil. Turkey exports about 40% of its total production. The rest of the tea is used for domestic consumption. The Turkish people consumes tea at an average rate of 2.5 kg per person each year. This is the highest per capita tea consumption rate in the world.
The Iranian tea industry started from 1882. At present tea plantation in Iran covers an area of around 320 square km of mostly hillside locations. Currently Iran produces a respectable 160 million kg of tea per year.
The father of Iranian tea was the first mayor of Tehran – the Prince Mohammad Mirza aka Kashef al Saltaneh. A die hard tea lover, he always dreamt of planting tea in his own country. Under the British rule, he got appointment as the Iranian ambassador to India. At that time, East India Company strictly guarded the secrets of tea plantation and production techniques. But the determined Prince wanted to learn the techniques of tea at any cost. So the Prince took the disguise of a French labor and infiltrated into a tea plantation. There the Prince mastered the art of tea growing. He even managed to outsource some seed samples from India. He planted the seed samples at Gilan in Iran. And thus the glorious era of Iranian tea began overcoming all odds.