International Tea Day

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

A cuppa may seem like a small and seemingly inconsequential part of our daily routines. But, even the smallest things can have the biggest impact.

Mountains in the background with green tea fields in the foreground.
Tea Fields

Why is tea important?

The origins of tea stretch back thousands of years and its contributions to culture and socioeconomic development are still as relevant today as it was when tea was first discovered. Currently, tea is grown in more than 35 countries and is a source of livelihood for many families, most in least developed countries.

Tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant. It has small green leaves and white flowers similar to the ornamental camellias you can come across in gardens all around the world. Like most other camellias it is thought to have originated in the sub-Himalayan areas (India, Laos, Myanmar, south-west China). It is believed that tea was discovered in China around 2737BC. The popular legend goes that Chinese Emperor Shen Nung was resting under a Camellia Sinensis tree when he noticed the aroma from leaves that had fallen into a boiling kettle.

Tea is also big business, it is the second most widely consumed beverage worldwide, following only water. The global tea market in 2021 is valued at nearly 233 billion U.S. dollars, and is expected to rise to over 318 billion dollars by 2025. Just in 2021 the global consumption of tea is expected to amount to about 6.3 billion kilograms. That is a lot of tea.

What is the International Tea Day?

International Tea Day used to be celebrated on December 15th until 2020, when the United Nations decided to initiate a global celebration of the long history of the cultural and economic significance of tea to be celebrated on May 21st.

On International Tea Day, May 21st, tea lovers around the world promote actions in favour of sustainable tea production and celebrate the critical contributions that tea production and processing make towards 4 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set out by the United Nations:

  • Goal 1: reduction of extreme poverty

  • Goal 2: the fight against hunger

  • Goal 5: the empowerment of women, and

  • Goal 15: the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems

Tea production and processing supports over 13 million people, most smallholder growers who are responsible for 60 percent of world tea production and depend on the tea sector for their livelihoods. Tea makes a critical contribution to ending poverty, fighting hunger and empowering women.

The current climate crisis has a significant impact on the production of tea and consequently the livelihood of the smallholder growers that depend on it. Tea production is highly sensitive to changes in growing conditions and thrives in very specific narrowly defined agro-ecological conditions in a very limited number of countries, many of which are already heavily impacted by climate change.

As the climate crisis intensifies, there is an urgent need for adaptation to and mitigation of the very real risks that changes in temperature, rainfall patterns, floods and droughts bring to tea production. Tea is significantly impacted by the climate crisis but given the massive global scale to tea production, it can also play a major role in the protection, restoration and promotion of sustainable uses of our terrestrial ecosystems.

Why is Internal Tea Day important to us at Oolo?

Oolo is an online community of tea lovers, we live and breath tea all day everyday. On Internal Tea Day, we celebrate the diverse cultural heritage and the significant socioeconomic importance of tea. We also pay homage to the millions of people who work to make the daily cuppa a reality to millions more. We thank our home planet for it’s extraordinary biodiversity and work to continue to make the tea value chain sustainable from field to cup, ensuring long lasting benefits for both people and the environment.

How can you make a positive impact with tea?

The best thing that you can do is to put your money where your heart is. Support tea businesses that align with your values and the change you want to see in the world. You have the power to create change, one cuppa at a time. Here are a couple of tips:

  • Support local businesses

  • Switch to sustainable brands. For example Oolo’s products are sustainable from field to cup and biodegradable from leaf to packaging

  • Reuse, reuse, reuse. For example at Oolo we give our community the option to refill their tea cylinders.

If you want to learn more about tea or want to share some of your knowledge with other tea lovers, head to our forum.