views updated May 23 2018



NAICS: 31-1920 Coffee and Tea Manufacturing

SIC: 2099 Food Preparations, not elsewhere classified

NAICS-Based Product Codes: 31-19207 through 31-19207231


Tea is a beverage made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, which is a tropical evergreen plant with shiny green leaves that have jagged edges. The plant is cultivated in more than 30 countries located near the equator between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. The evergreen is a perennial crop, except for a short period of dormancy which increases progressively with distance from the equator, it can be harvested year-round. While the wild plant can grow from five- to eight-feet high, under cultivation, Camellia sinensis is planted in single or double hedgerows and is kept to a height of approximately three feet for easy plucking. Hedgerows yield tea leaves for as long as 100 to 150 years.

Folktales from China and Japan surround the origins of tea drinking, and both involve royalty. The Chinese story concerns Emperor Shen Nung who ruled around 2737 BC. His far-sighted edicts required that drinking water be boiled as a hygienic precaution. When dried leaves from a nearby bush fell into boiling water, Shen Nung tasted the resulting brew. This is the way in which the Emperor discovered tea. The Japanese story concerns Prince Bodhidharma who brought Buddhism from India to Japan around 500 AD. In the fifth year of a seven-year sleepless contemplation of Buddha, the Prince felt drowsy. He plucked leaves from a nearby bush, chewed them, and discovered that the leaves had dispelled his fatigue. Prince Bodhidharma had discovered tea. Tea has origins in the Zen of China and the Tao of Japan. In Zen, the mundane is of equal importance to the spiritual. The goal of Tao is to find beauty in the world.

Tea arrived in the West via land and sea trade routes with China. The very word tea is an anglicized version of early Chinese words—such as tchai, cha and tay—used to describe both the leaf and the brew. Chinese rose, the common name for Camellia sinensis, reflects these early origins. In the 1500s Portugal controlled the first trade routes with China because Portugal had a well-established navy. Tea drinking became fashionable among the wealthy in Portugal. Russia shared a border with China and developed overland trade routes. Wealthy Russians enjoyed tea. By the turn of the century, the Dutch usurped Portuguese trading routes and established a port on the island of Java in the Indian Ocean in an area then broadly referred to as the East Indies. It was via Java that in 1606 the first consignment of tea was shipped from China to Holland.

Tea became fashionable in the Dutch capital, the Hague, primarily among the wealthy. The expensive import was sold in apothecaries along with rare and new items—ginger and sugar. Although today it is thought of as the quintessentially British drink, tea came late to the United Kingdom. Britain established East Indian trade routes after Portugal and Holland. When King Charles II married his Portuguese queen Catherine de Braganza in 1662, her dowry included the territories of Tangier and Bombay, whose ports gave a base of operations to the East India Company. British imperialists ruled commerce for 100 years through the East India Company's control of trade to the East and to the West with its colonies in the New World.

Russian interest in tea began in the early 1600s when the Chinese presented several chests of tea to Czar Alexis in Moscow. The shared Russian-Chinese border encouraged overland trade. The 11,000-mile trip took sixteen months and required caravans of 200 to 300 camels.

Prior to its shipment by land or sea, the leaf of the evergreen Camellia sinensis was processed in the country where it was grown. Tea leaves vary in flavor according to the soil, altitude, and climatic conditions of the region in which they are grown. Like wine, many teas take their name from the district or region in which they are grown. Some of these regions and the teas they produce are quite famous. One distinguished black tea is Darjeeling, its name synonymous with the mountainous Darjeeling region of India where high altitudes and misting rains produce tea that is full bodied yet light with a flavor reminiscent of Muscat grapes. The six stages of tea processing are: plucking, withering, rolling (or the more modern crushing), fermenting (more aptly called oxidizing), drying, and grading.


Tea is neither picked nor harvested. It is plucked. Only two leaves and one bud are plucked at a time. The two leaves and one bud are referred to as the first flush. Since Camellia sinensis is a perennial that can be harvested continuously for up to 150 years, in tea terminology a flush occurs when shoots reappear. Plucked leaves are generally collected in a basket or bag carried on the plucker's back. Once plucked, slight variations in processing result in four main types of tea—black, oolong, green, and white.


Plucked leaves are placed on shelves called withering racks. The moisture in the leaf evaporates, leaving flaccid leaves. Withering takes from ten to eighteen hours, depending on the dampness of the leaf, and is carefully controlled. Some processors hasten the withering process with warm-air fans. Withering conditions the leaf for either the orthodox rolling step or the modern crush, tear, and curl (CTC) step.

Rolling or Crushing

The flaccid withered leaf is either rolled or crushed. This step ruptures the leaf cells to release the natural juices, or enzymes, expose them to oxygen, and initiate the oxidation process. Orthodox rolling machines facilitate the process by twisting and curling the leaf to help give tea its aroma and taste. The modern CTC method speeds up processing by using machines to crush, tear, and curl the leaf, both to reduce fermenting time and intensify fermented flavor. After CTC machines became more frequently used, a resurgent respect for the orthodox method emerged, especially for premium tea where a larger leaf is valued.


In the fermenting room, the rolled or crushed leaf is laid out on perforated trays in a cool, humid atmosphere to oxidize. Oxidization is a natural chemical reaction that produces distinct colors and distinct tastes. Trays are gently turned to carefully control the length of time in which oxidization occurs. The challenge is to stop the oxidation process by drying the tea leaf at the optimal moment.


To carefully control the length of oxidization, the rolled or crushed and fermented leaf is dried. The perforated trays are passed slowly through hot air chambers. The drying chamber deactivates the enzymes and stops oxidation. This dries the leaf and turns it a blackish brown. During drying, the pungent familiar earthy tea aroma arises. After the leaves cool, they are sorted.


Dry tea leaves are sorted into grades by passing them over screens with varying hole sizes. Grades do not denote quality; they simply refer to leaf size. Large leaves are graded as orange pekoe, pekoe, and pekoe souchong. Contrary to popular perception, orange pekoe is a size, not a flavoring. Smaller leaves are classified as broken orange pekoe, broken pekoe souchong, broken orange pekoe fannings, and fines (also called dust). In brewing, flavor and color come out of larger leaves more slowly than from the broken grades and fines. Large curly leaves are valued for loose-leaf tea. Broken grades comprise approximately 80 percent of the total tea crop and are valued because they produce a strong dark tea. Fines are generally used inside teabags.

Types of Tea

The way in which the shiny green leaves from the tropical evergreen Camellia sinensis are processed determines the type of tea that will be shipped by land or sea, packaged, marketed, and sold. The determining factor is how much oxygen the leaves are allowed to absorb during oxidization. The names black, oolong, green, and white denote levels of fermentation on a scale from highly fermented to not at all. For instance, black tea is oxidized for up to four hours while oolong tea is oxidized for a shorter time—two to three hours.

Black Tea

Black tea leaves are fully oxidized, almost to the point of being roasted. Total oxidization results in a rich, black product likened to red wine with an intense flavor. Black tea yields a hearty, deeply amber colored liquid. It is the most common form of tea consumed worldwide, and black tea is the most popular in tea bags in the United States. Popular black teas include Ceylon and Darjeeling. Black tea is the basis for popular blends such as Irish Breakfast and Russian Caravan. Black tea can be served with lemon, or milk and sugar.

Oolong Tea

Partially oxidized, oolong tea is considered the crème de la crème of tea because of its clarity. The name oolong translates as black dragon. It is the national drink of China where it is called red or brown. To make it, processors interrupt fermentation by stirring the leaves until they are russet or golden to dark brown. Popular varieties of oolong tea include Formosa Oolong, Ti Quan Yin (with its various spellings Ti Guan Yin and Ti Kwan Yin), and Black Dragon. With a flavor and aroma that can range from fruity to floral, oolong teas make milk, lemon, and sugar unthinkable to the connoisseur.

Green Tea

Green tea is not oxidized. It is simply withered and then dried to prevent any oxidation. The result is a refreshingly delicate taste and pale green/gold liquid often likened to white wine. Varieties of green tea include Gunpowder, Dragon Well, and Jasmine. Green tea has become increasingly popular in the United States because the leaves are left close to their natural state. Their health benefits—the polyphenols with antioxidant properties—are preserved.

White Tea

The least processed of the tea varieties, white tea, is for connoisseurs. The rare and expensive white tea requires an experienced palate already initiated into the subtle flavor differences between oolong and green teas. Its name is a literal translation from the Chinese and describes not only the fine, silver fuzz that covers the two leaves and one bud, which turn white when dry, but also the very pale color of its liquid. Genuine white tea is derived from the first flush buds of the Camellia sinensis bush grown exclusively in the Fujian Province of China. It is rare and costly as a result of both geographical and plucking limitations. White tea produces a shimmering clear liquid with a mellow sweet taste devoid of as-tringency and grassiness. Examples include Silver Needle, White Peony, and Tribute Eyebrow. White Peony is common in America and yields a darker liquid with a nutty or bamboo fragrance, and a slightly smoky taste.

Because the demand for white tea is increasing, the Tea Association of the United States of America (Tea USA), based in New York, New York, proposes a new definition that removes any geographic limitation on white tea. Instead of the historical geographically-derived definition, Tea USA proposes that the term white tea be used to denote the two leaves and one bud of Camellia si-nensis that are merely processed in accordance with guidelines originally established in Fujian Province, China. The Tea USA definition allows white tea to be made by any tea-producing country as long as the two leaves and one bud are not withered, rolled or crushed, or oxidized.

Herbal Teas

Herbal teas are not true teas. Herbal teas are made from grasses such as lemongrass, barks such as cinnamon, fruits such as orange peel, flowers such as chamomile and hibiscus, and many other botanicals. The distinction is so clear that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires herbal tea labels to carry the name of the plant from which the product is derived. The true tea industry prefers to refer to these products as herbal infusions. Much to the chagrin of Camellia sinensis tea promoters and producers, herbal teas are now generally classified and generically referred to as teas.

Blended Teas

Brand-named teas are well-established blends. Blending produces a particular flavor to which many consumers worldwide have become accustomed. Two well-known brands are Irish Breakfast and Russian Caravan. The Irish are the highest per capita consumers of tea, and they prefer it to be very strong. They drink Irish Breakfast tea throughout the day. It is robust enough to be served with plenty of sugar and milk. Russian Caravan was created from teas brought overland into Russia by camel caravan from China. Because the trade route was dangerous and supplies were unsteady, Russian tea merchants blended the varying incoming tea cargoes. Russians drink the resulting blend with milk and sugar or lemon and sugar throughout the day. Russians enjoy very sweet tea, often adding jam to Russian Caravan.


The International Tea Committee was established in London in 1933. It provides tea industry statistical information. Its Annual Bulletin of Statistics 2006 provides an overview of worldwide production, exports, and per capita consumption of true tea made from Camellia sinensis.

Worldwide Tea Production Volume

According to the International Tea Committee, worldwide production of tea for 2006 totaled 3.5 million metric tons. The top five tea-growing countries were China, India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, and Indonesia. Figure 201 depicts the top producers' share of total worldwide tea production. China and India dominate world tea production. Together they account for approximately 57 percent. Renowned Chinese teas are Dragon Well, Iron Goddess, and Silver Needle. Renowned Indian teas are Darjeeling and Assam. Because the Chinese and Indian people consume so much tea on a per capita basis, neither country leads the list of worldwide exporters.

According to the International Tea Committee, world exports of tea in 2006 totaled 1.5 million metric tons, or less than half of total tea produced. The top five tea exporting countries were Sri Lanka, Kenya, China, India, and Vietnam. Figure 202 depicts the top exporters' share of total worldwide tea exports. Sri Lanka and Kenya dominate worldwide tea exports. Together they account for 40 percent of total world exports, each taking exactly 20 percent according to International Tea Committee statistics.

Sri Lanka is an equatorial island off the southern coast of India. Commercial tea cultivation began in 1867 when the island was known as Ceylon and was controlled by British imperialists. Sri Lanka became independent in 1948. Sri Lankan tea estates often are self-contained production units consisting of tea fields, tea processing facilities, staff housing, and land allotments for food, dairy, and poultry farming for the staff. They frequently include schools, stores, hospitals and medical clinics, social clubs, and places of worship. To denote not only the country of origin but also its superlative quality, all Sri Lankan tea is sold with the lion logo under the name Ceylon Tea.

Kenya is in east Africa, astride the equator, on the Indian Ocean. Tea is Kenya's leading foreign-exchange earner. Small farms produce the bulk of Kenyan tea, with multinational companies such as Unilever growing 40 percent. Kenya's tea factories are on average four times larger than are those in Sri Lanka. Kenya quadrupled its tea exports over the last decade, claiming it surpassed Sri Lanka in exports in 2005. Europe Agri reported in its July 22, 2005, issue that tea production in Kenya rose by 11 percent in 2004 and confirmed that Kenya was the leading exporter by a slight margin.

Worldwide Import Volume and Per capita Consumption

According to the International Tea Committee, worldwide import volume of tea for consumption in 2006 totaled 1.5 million metric tons. The top five tea importers were Russia/Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the United Kingdom, Pakistan, the United States, and Iraq. Figure 203 shows that the top five importing countries garnered 50 percent of the world's tea. Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (created in 1991 and consisting of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine) imported 14 percent of total worldwide import volume. Europe Agri reported that world net tea imports increased by 1.5 percent in 2004 driven by increased demand in the European Union (2.4%), the United States (5.3%), and Japan (2%).

According to the International Tea Committee, the Irish consume more tea on a per capita basis than any other nationality. The population of Ireland was just over 4 million in 2005. That same year, the Irish consumed 2.79 kilograms of tea per capita. Based on an average of three grams of tea per cup, which is the equivalent of more than 2.5 cups per day for each of the 4 million Irish residents. Besides Ireland, the countries with the highest annual per capita consumption of tea were Libya (2.54 kilograms), the United Kingdom (2.1 kilograms), Kuwait (2.1 kilograms), and Turkey (2.1 kilograms). Libya surpassed the United Kingdom in the middle of the first decade of the twenty-first century as the second-largest per capita consumer of tea in the world.

U.S. Consumption Patterns

The USDA Economic Research Service has tracked per capita consumption of tea in gallons since 1911. Figure 204 depicts a 92-year sequence of consumption in gallons for tea and coffee, with carbonated soft drink data from the 1940s onward. Per capita tea consumption in the early part of the last century was at historic highs of 11.3 gallons per capita. In the 1940s, per capita tea consumption fell to half that amount, down to such lows as 5.2 gallons per capita. Tea consumption faltered in part because of increased coffee consumption, which was America's hot drink in that decade. Since 1950, per capita tea consumption grew slowly, reaching 8.2 gallons per capita in 1992. Statistics provided by the Tea Association of USA confirm only that the estimated value of U.S. wholesale tea sales increased from $1.8 billion in 1999 to $6.2 billion in 2006.


The world's leading Camellia sinensis tea companies include Associated British Foods Plc (Twinings), Tata Tea Ltd. (Tetley Tea), and Unilever (Lipton). While herbal teas are not true teas made from the Camellia sinensis plant, to the chagrin of traditional tea promoters and producers, herbal teas are generally classified as tea. Leading U.S. herbal tea brands include Celestial Seasonings and The Republic of Tea.

Associated British Foods Plc.

Headquartered in London, Associated British Foods is a diversified international food, ingredients, and retail group with 2006 sales of $11.2 billion and more than 75,000 employees in forty six countries. It owns Twinings, one of the oldest tea companies and one of the oldest brand names in the world. Twinings is the global market leader in teas and sells its brand in more than ninety countries. Twinings started selling tea in England 300 years ago, in 1706. It started to produce teabags in 1956, largely to satisfy U.S. demand. Twinings keeps up with tea trends. In 1976, it launched flavored black teas to satisfy demand in the United Kingdom. In the 1980s Twinings met the new demand for decaffeinated tea. In 1981 Twinings introduced iced tea in Europe and introduced its first organic products in 1999.

Through its affiliation with the London-based Ethical Tea Partnership, an initiative started by four leading United Kingdom tea packing companies in 1992, Twinings aims to demonstrate that 100 percent of the tea it buys is ethically produced. Reflecting the real rarity of white tea, Twining offers only one—but it is a true white, made from the rare buds from Fujian, China.

Twinings' well-known brand-name teas include Earl Gray, English Breakfast, and Irish Breakfast, among others. It also sells three types of green tea: green tea, chamomile green tea, and jasmine green tea. Twinings' new line of herbal teas reflects the influence of the herbal segment on the true tea segment. Twinings' herbal teas are flavored with mandarin and orange, black currants, ginseng and Tahitian vanilla, cherries and Madagascan cinnamon, citrus spice, Egyptian chamomile and apple, and lemon and ginger. Twinings also offers pure chamomile and pure peppermint teas.

In order to accommodate the interest of consumers in the origins of tea leaves, Twinings introduced an Origins line. All tea in the line is derived from specific origins and named to reflect that: Ceylon Orange Pekoe (a blend), China Oolong (with a sweet, delicate, reddish color), Darjeeling (likened to the Muscatel grape), and Indian Spiced Chai (black tea infused with Indian spices including cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and ginger).

Tata Tea Ltd.

The Tetley Group is headquartered in Greenford, in the United Kingdom, and employs approximately 1,000 people throughout the world. Tetley, second only to Unilever (Lipton) for tea bag sales in the world, was started by brothers Joseph and Edward Tetley in 1837. The Tetleys blended and packaged tea and, in the 1880s, began to sell the Tetley brand of tea in the United States. Encouraged by its successful sales of tea in the United States, Tetley launched the first United Kingdom tea bag in 1953. Within ten years, the British teapot gave way to the tea bag. In the 1960s, Tetley truly became international and by the turn of the century the company sold its renowned brand in sixty-seven countries. In 2000 Tata Tea, Ltd., one of the world's largest integrated tea businesses, acquired Tetley for almost $500 million. Tetley acquired the Santa Cruz, California-based Good Earth Teas in 2005.

Tetley's U.S. products include black tea (a classic and British blend); iced tea; green tea (a green blend and organic blend); herbal tea (orange peach, lemon chamomile, peppermint, summery berry); specialty teas; decaffeinated teas; and a canister line of teas. Tetley iced tea is blended and packed in Marietta, Georgia, and comes in family-size (where each tea bag makes one quart of iced tea). Iced Tea Mix comes pre-flavored with sugar and natural lemon. Tetley U.S. packaging innovations include the canister line and compact canister line designed to take up less room in the pantry. Tetley does not sell a single white tea, demonstrating its true rarity.

Good Earth sells a full line of teas. Its range includes black teas (black, Earl Grey, and English Breakfast), and green teas (Green Tea Blend, Green Tea Blend Decaf, Jasmine Green Tea Blend, Green & Ginseng Tea). Good Earth white teas are new and include two: White Tea and White Tea Decaffeinated. Good Earth also has a full organic line that includes twelve products with choices of black, green, white, and herbal teas both caffeinated and decaffeinated. Good Earth herbal teas are Goodnight, peppermint, and chamomile.


With world headquarters in both Rotterdam and London, Unilever had total sales of approximately €40 billion in 2006. It sells food products in addition to home and personal-care products. Lipton is one of its 400 brands. Unilever also owns PG Tips, the best-selling tea in the United Kingdom. Lipton is the global market leader in tea. Its 2006 tea sales amounted to €3 billion and its global tea market share was approximately three times larger than those of its nearest rival were. In May 2007 Unilever announced plans to market its entire tea supply as Rainforest Alliance.

Rainforest Alliance aims to put environmental and ethical issues on equal footing with economic trade. Rainforest Alliance certified farmers commit to worker welfare, sustainable farm management, and environmental protection. Unilever's first certified tea was available in Europe in August 2006. All U.S. and European Union tea-bag products will be certified by 2010. One aim of the certification program is to give growers higher prices for tea, raising quality of life on a sustainable basis. In 2006 Unilever entered into a partnership with the United Kingdom Department for International Development and the Kenya Tea Development Agency to communicate tea sustainability guidelines to 450,000 small farmers in Kenya since small farmers grow the bulk of Kenya's tea.

Lipton is known in the United States more for its bright-yellow packaging than the quality of its tea. Lipton sells mostly black teas, all value priced. Lipton's black teas include a full range of hot teas, decaffeinated hot teas, cold-brew teas, decaffeinated cold-brew teas, iced teas, and decaffeinated iced teas. For instance, black teas are flavored with orange & spice, blackberry, honey & lemon, raspberry, French vanilla, and mint. Lipton also makes yellow-labeled green teas and iced teas. In 2006 it introduced Lipton Cold Brew tea bags that allow iced tea to be brewed in cold water within five minutes. Lipton green teas include 100% Natural, 100% Natural Decaf, Decaf Honey Lemon, Cranberry Pomegranate, Orange, Passion-fruit & Jasmine, Lemon Ginseng, Honey, Mixed Berry, and Mint. Lipton's full line of 11 herbal teas reflects the great influence of the herbal segment on the traditional true tea segment.

According to the Mintel Group's May 2007 report on tea, Lipton dominates U.S. tea sales, capturing 2.5 times more of the total tea market than its two nearest rivals (who, coincidentally, solely manufactured ready-to-drink tea). Its sales are four times larger than the next tea maker, Celestial Seasonings.

Celestial Seasonings

Celestial Seasonings dominates U.S. herbal tea manufacturing. It sells more than eighty varieties of herb, black, green, white, red, and wellness teas. In Aspen, Colorado, in 1969, the original owners of Celestial Seasonings harvested enough wild herbs to produce 500 pounds of tea, which it packaged in hand-sewn muslin bags and sold to a local health food store. When it introduced its Red Zinger herb tea in January 1972, the tea was a national sensation. Celestial Seasonings started obtaining hibiscus from local farmers and then introduced a line of "zingers"—all free of caffeine and based on hibiscus. By the turn of the twenty-first century, the nationally recognized zinger line included Acai, Mango Zinger, Cranberry Apple Zinger, Lemon Zinger, Raspberry Zinger, Tangerine Orange Zinger, and Wild Berry Zinger.

Kraft, Inc. bought Celestial Seasonings in 1984. Kraft strengthened the Celestial Seasonings distribution system and encouraged its introduction of a full line of traditional, or true, black teas from the Camellia sinensis plant. In 1988, Celestial Seasonings reestablished itself and returned to independent ownership. In 2000 Celestial Seasonings allied itself with the Hain Food Group, headquartered in Melville, New York, a specialist in the health and natural foods channel. Celestial Seasonings also partnered with WomenHeart: the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. For that organization's annual Red Dress campaign, Celestial Seasonings created two special black teas—Black Cherry Pomegranate and Vanilla Rose Decaf—with a package that featured a red dress in the artwork and provided educational information about women's risk of heart disease. Approximately 17 million boxes were sold.

Celestial Seasonings offers five white teas when most makers have only one or two, or even none. Its whites are called Antioxidant Plum White Tea, Decaf China Pearl White Tea, Imperial White Peach Tea, Perfectly Pear White Tea, and Vanilla Apple White Organic Tea.

Celestial Seasoning produces fourteen black teas. The block of black-tea products incorporates black raspberry, black cherry pomegranate, vanilla maple decaf, mango, vanilla spice, mint spice, vanilla rose, Tuscany orange spice, among many others. Decaffeinated and organic varieties are also offered. Reflecting the growing popularity of green tea, Celestial Seasonings offers fifteen green teas. The group of green teas includes products that are anti-oxidant, authentic, decaffeinated, and organic. Green-tea blends include honey chamomile, lemon, mandarin, mint, berry pomegranate, and one that combines honey, lemon, and ginseng. Its well-known Lemon Zinger is available in a green-tea blend.

The Republic of Tea

Unlike Associated British Foods and Unilever, the Republic of Tea sells tea and only tea, following the successful Celestial Seasonings model. Headquartered in Novato, California, the Republic of Tea was established in 1992 by Mel and Patricia Ziegler, who founded the Banana Republic clothing store.

Instead of presidents and vice presidents, the top leadership team at the Republic of Tea consists of a Minister of Customer Satisfaction, Minister of Enlightenment (Media Relations), Minister of Commerce (Wholesale), Minister of Innovation (Website), Minister of Discovery (Catalogue Requests), Minister of Information, and Minister of Health. Self-proclaimed Minister of Tea, Ron Rubin, purchased the Republic of Tea in 1994. In 2006 he explained to Business Week, "Our message is about life-style, health, and well-being. Coffee is all about speeding up, and tea is about slowing down." Rubin asserts that annual sales have quadrupled since 1994 to more than $10 million in 2005. Its Sip-for-the-Cure line of five different green teas contributed $484,000 in sales to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

The company sells twenty-one black teas, three oolong teas, thirty green teas, and offers nine white teas at a time when some makers have none. From its manufacturing center in Nashville, Illinois, it uses distinctive packaging. All teas are available in the basic all-around reusable tin with a naturally non-coated paper label that contains 50 round tea bags and sells for approximately $10. The refill of 50 tea bags is packaged in a plain brown lunch bag that sells for approximately $1 or less.

On its Web site, each of the company's teas has a separate dialog box. The dialog box includes each tea's specific origin/estate, caffeine levels per 6-ounce cup, and tasting notes. Tasting notes for its Asian Jasmine White Tea included the following example: "The Ming Dynasty was a prolific period for the honored jasmine blossom. Represented in paintings, porcelain, embroidery, poems and sonnets and most notably … tea. Jasmine blossoms are blended with the tea when the petals are closed. As the sun sets the flowers open, imparting an exotic aroma on the delicate White Tea buds."

Each year the Republic of Tea launches a slate of brews. For its most innovative line, the Republic of Tea came up with interesting names. The nine products in the Be Well Red Teas line are Get Gorgeous-for Clear Skin No. 1; Get it Going-for Regularity No. 2; Get Charged-for Energy No. 3; Get a Grip-for PMS/Menopause No. 4; Get some ZZZ's-for Rest No. 5; Get Lost-for Weight Control No. 6; Get Clean-for Detoxing No. 7; Get Soothed-for Scratchy Throats No. 8; and Get Relief-for Digestion No. 9. Each is a far-reaching blend based on a red herb known as rooibos.


In addition to tea leaves that have been grown, plucked, withered, oxidized, dried, graded, and shipped from abroad, manufacturers need packaging materials. The most important packaging material is the tea bag.

In the early 1900s, Thomas Sullivan, a New York-based tea merchant, invented the tea bag. Following the standard established at international auction houses, tea was not sold locally without first being sampled. Sullivan sent tea samples to prospective customers in small silk bags. Customers put the entire bag into the teapot, instead of emptying out the contents. Sullivan substituted gauze for silk and for a time most tea bags were hand sewn. By the 1920s commercial production using gauze (and later, paper) was developed. The typical tea bag was rectangular or square and contained the rolled or crushed tea leaves known as fines. Standard tea bag features included a string to drape over the side of the teapot or mug so that the bag could easily be removed, with a tag on the end bearing the maker's name or logo.

In an article appearing in the Tea & Coffee Journal, Bill Waddington of TeaSource, a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based tea wholesale company, reported that most mass-marketed tea bags contain mediocre to average tea and cost roughly 15 cents each. He reiterated the shadowy myth that tea bags achieved dominance because they gave manufacturers an avenue in which to sell the lowest-grade fines (also called dust) instead of larger loose-leaf tea grades known as orange pekoe, pekoe, pekoe souchong, broken orange pekoe, broken pekoe souchong, and broken orange pekoe fannings.

While larger loose tea leaves generally are considered to be a premium product, they require a metal ball, a tea strainer, or an infuser to brew. Consequently, tea bags represent more than 62 percent of U.S. tea sales, while loose-leaf tea accounts for less than one percent, according to a 2007 issue of Beverage World (iced tea and ready-to-drink teas accounted for the rest of the market). Because of its prominence in the marketplace, the typical tea bag design has been modified three times.

The initial innovation was a round-shaped tea bag without the customary string and tag. In 1989 Tetley launched a round-shaped tea bag made of ultra-porous paper for faster infusion. The round tea bag is a standard at the Republic of Tea. All its tea is sold in round-shaped unbleached tea bags touted as free of staples and string; they do, however, use glue. Trendy round-shaped tea bags from the Republic of Tea cost 20 to 30 cents each.

The second innovation was a higher-quality translucent mesh pouch. Immediately after its formation in San Francisco, California, in 1996, Mighty Leaf Tea pioneered its signature hand-stitched, translucent-mesh pouch to effectively deliver precision servings of its larger loose-leaf tea blends with chunks of fruit, spices, and flavors too large for ordinary tea bags. At approximately $10 for fifteen bags, they cost approximately 70 cents each. Such premium packaging appealed to purists and emerged concurrently with a new disdain for fines. Others in the industry began to emulate Mighty Leaf.

Tetley introduced a drawstring tea bag advertised as "No drip, no mess." It repackaged its herbal, specialty, and green tea with the new bag, which made it possible to get every last drop of tea out of every bag. The innovation involves two strings (instead of the typical one) that work together as a drawstring after seeping to squeeze all of the flavor and water out of the tea bag. Ineeka in Chicago, Illinois, introduced a bag with paper arms on the sides that fold over the sides of a tea mug to become a single-use filter. Boiling water is poured over loose-leaf tea in the filter, much like water is poured over coffee in a filter. At approximately $10 for fourteen bags, tea filters cost more than 90 cents each.

The Specialty Coffee Association of America designated the Mighty Leaf Tea Company its "Best New Packaging" in 2006 for another tea bag innovation. Made of polylactic corn, the new silken biodegradable pouches display the tea leaves even more than its signature translucent mesh pouches. The award-winning tea bag is described as a silken tetrahedron stitched with unbleached cotton string, with no glue or staples used. A tetrahedron is a fancy name for a pyramid with four triangular faces. Tetrahedrons became the preferred pouch style and Lipton—the global tea leader—emulated the tiny Mighty Leaf design. Mighty Leaf reported 2004 sales of approximately $6 million; Lipton had €3 billion in tea sales in 2006.

The launch of Lipton's Pyramid tea bags was such a sensation that the New York Times covered it in an article titled "Tea's Got a Brand New Bag." The article pointed out that tea bags are generally filled with indistinguishable fines, "the detritus left after tea leaves are sifted and graded." The article heralded the move away from tea bags filled with tea fines, or dust, toward premium longer-leaf tea. Lipton's Pyramid tea bags were designed to give long-leaf tea room to move in order to brew an improved liquid. The bags contain tea that is hand-picked from the leading two leaves and a bud with pieces of genuine fruit. Pyramid tea bags are available in six flavors: Bavarian Wild Berry, Vanilla Caramel Truffle, Red with Strawberry & Passionfruit, White with Mango and Peach, Green with Mandarin Orange, and Black Pearl.


Tea is grown and processed around the world in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and in one U.S. tea estate located in South Carolina known as the Charleston Tea Plantation. For 300 years, the London tea auction was the center of international tea trade. The East Indian Company held the first auctions in 1679 and had a monopoly on the tea trade because of its control of seafaring trade routes. Tea was sent from India, China, Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka), and Africa for sale at the auction. Once purchased, tea was sent from London warehouses to purchasers. After India, Sri Lanka, and Kenya became independent states in 1947, 1948, and 1963, respectively, London's preeminence faded. To avoid the costly and timely process of shipping tea to England for auction, auctions were established in the regions of the world where tea is grown.

Existing tea-auction houses are located in or near the ports of major tea-producing regions. Auctions exist in Jakarta on the island of Java in Indonesia; in Calcutta in India, on the Bay of Bengal on the Indian Ocean; in Colombo on the island of Sri Lanka located off the southern coast of India, on the Gulf of Mannar in the Indian Ocean; in Mombasa on the coast of Kenya and in several other locations. The system is the same at all auction houses. Producers send tea to warehouses approved by the relevant auction center. At the warehouse, tea is tasted and inspected by professional brokers. Registered buyers receive tea samples approximately 10 days before the auction date. Tea is sold by lot on the auction date to the highest bidder.

The dominant distribution channel for U.S. retail tea sales is the supermarket. According to the Mintel Group's May 2007 report on tea, supermarkets account for approximately 67 percent of tea sales. Black tea historically dominates supermarket shelves. Supermarket shelves are overloaded with black, oolong, green, white, herbal, iced, and even loose-leaf teas.

Convenience stores are the second-largest distribution channel for teas, accounting for approximately 29 percent of tea sales. Mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart, are the smallest distribution channels for tea, yet showed three-digit growth in the two-year period studied by Mintel. The mass merchandiser distribution channel is growing. Target, for example, plans to add some 600 stores to its collection between 2005 and 2010. Target is also expanding the number of its SuperTarget outlets which are designed to include supermarkets, which will carry a broader selection of tea than do its regular Target stores.


Approximately one-quarter of adults drink tea at least oc-casionally—whether hot, iced, or ready-to-drink. Black and green teas are equally preferred, with lemon and chamomile also popular.

Traditional drinkers of black tea and purists share a disdain for the mediocre to average fines typically contained within a mass-produced tea bag. Purists are willing to pay more for a premium product. The user of green tea may include the health conscious. The newest users are younger adventurers who know the origins of their tea leaves and appreciate the cultures that produce the various oolong, green, and white teas.


All beverage markets are adjacent to the tea market and competition in the beverage industry is fierce. Tea and coffee have been adjacent to each other since at least 1911, when the USDA Economic Research Service started to track per capita consumption of both drinks in gallons. Tea and coffee began competing with carbonated soft drinks for market share in the 1940s. The USDA Economic Research Service began tracking carbonated soft-drink consumption relative to the closely adjacent tea and coffee consumption. Bottled water became adjacent approximately in 1976, and the USDA Economic Research Service tracks per capita consumption of it.

While tea was in coffee's shadow since before 1911, according to USDA Economic Research Service data, the U.S. tea market has been booming in the early twenty-first century. While tea sales had not reached $1 billion annually as of 1990, the Tea Association of the USA estimated the 2006 value of U.S. wholesale tea sales at $6.2 billion. According to a study by the market research firm Packaged Facts, the tea market was expected to reach $10 billion by 2010, closing in on the $18 billion per year coffee market.

There has been a tangible shift in tastes in the United States during the early 2000s, shifting from high-calorie, high-sugar, carbonated soft drinks toward adjacent beverages, especially bottled water. Bottled tea products fit well into the new taste patterns emerging in the twenty-first century. Celestial Seasonings is producing products to compete with the increasingly popular bottled water market. Its Zingers To Go are touted as 100 percent natural powdered products that help consumers meet their daily water requirement. The new teas are available in four flavors: Blueberry Splash Green Tea, Peach Delight Green Tea, Wild Berry Chill Herb Tea, and Tangerine Orange Wave Herb Tea. They are packaged in individual servings designed to be mixed with purchased bottled water. Lipton Iced Tea To Go is also attacking the adjacent bottled water market. It is a zero-calorie, sugar-free iced tea mix in a small packet designed to be added to a purchased bottle of water. Flavors include peach, raspberry, cherry, lemon, honey & lemon, and mandarin orange & mango.

Atlanta, Georgia-based Coca-Cola is competing with itself by introducing ready-to-drink iced tea under the Gold Peak label, which will compete with its traditional product, carbonated soft drinks. Designed to appeal to premium tea lovers, it is touted as being made from hand-picked tea leaves and pure filtered water. Gold Peak comes in sweetened, unsweetened, diet, lemon, and green tea varieties and is sold in a carafe-like 16.9-ounce glass bottle.


Research demonstrated that the main chemical substances in tea are essential oils, caffeine, and polyphenols. Essential oils give tea its aroma, caffeine stimulates the tea drinker's central nervous system, and polyphenols account for tea's antioxidant and anti-disease properties. Newer research demonstrates the health benefits of tea. For instance, antioxidants help protect the body from the damage caused by harmful free radicals. Makers developed products that capitalized on health research and appealed to the consumer who wished to avoid high-calorie, high-sugar, carbonated soft drinks: no calories, no carbohydrates, and no caffeine. This trifecta of health claims made by tea manufacturers appealed to American consumers who are becoming simultaneously more health conscious and yet are gaining weight.

In its May 2004 position paper on functional foods, the American Dietetic Association stated that, based on available scientific data, potential health benefits of tea include a possible reduced risk of coronary heart disease, and reduced risk for gastric, esophageal, and skin cancers. Research on green tea, in particular, claims that it may boost longevity, enhance immune functions, aid in digestion, and reduce stress.

The result of such research is that, for some, tea is more than just a beverage. It is a trendy, healthy and easy drink. It revives, relaxes, and refreshes. It can be zesty and soothing at the same time. Tea is a hydrating liquid and counts towards the recommended daily fluid intake.


Ready-to-drink tea is the leading trend. The ready-to-drink segment experienced a flood of new product activity in the latter part of the first decade of the twenty-first century. Datamonitor reported that the trendy ready-to-drink category includes an explosion of product offerings that tout health benefits, offer fruit flavors, and claim to be organic. According to Datamonitor, from January 2006 through September 2006, more than 500 new ready-to-drink teas were introduced. The year before, 650 new ready-to-drink products were introduced.

The ready-to-drink era can be traced to the introduction of Snapple, circa 1990. Its colorful television commercials used a kaleidoscope to highlight its broad range of fruit-flavored teas. At the time, annual retail sales had not reached $1 billion and tea producers were simply uninspired.

Snapple catapulted the category into double-digit growth. By 1993, it introduced Wendy, the Snapple lady, in its television commercials as a straight-talking, average American spokeswoman. She was Wendy Kaufman, a Snapple employee. Cadbury Schweppes of Rye Brook, New York, soon acquired Snapple.

All ready-to-drink teas owe their inspired packaging to Snapple. They follow the Snapple model when they use chic packaging, zany copy, and unique wide-mouthed glass bottles. The leading ready-to-drink tea manufacturers are Arizona Beverages (Ferolito Vultaggio & Sons) and Snapple Natural Beverages Co. (Cadbury Schweppes). For example, Arizona Beverage Company, headquartered in Lake Success, New York, sells all its ready-to-drink tea and natural juice blends in large, sturdy, wide-mouthed 20-ounce glass bottles. The sturdy glass bottles are so popular, they have been used as garden edgers and lamp shades. Snapple is still innovating. It recently introduced ready-to-drink green and white teas. The green collection includes original, Asian pear, and mango flavors. The collection includes white tea flavored with nectarine, green apple, and raspberry. White teas are the trendiest of the hot trends in ready-to-drink teas. The new Snapple products are marked with the tagline "good for you." The product rollout is designed to build on the tagline to educate consumers about the health benefits of tea.

In contrast to early innovators Arizona Beverages and Snapple, traditional Camellia sinensis tea producers arrived late or not at all to the ready-to-drink segment. Tetley and Twinings do not have ready-to-drink tea products in the United States. While Lipton introduced tea in a can in 1972, it was not a forerunner in the hip, healthy, and easy ready-to-drink market. Lipton's launch of Pureleaf ready-to-drink tea in 2006 was relatively late. It is available in nine flavors.

Celestial Seasonings launched Zingerade, a ready-to-drink blend of herbal tea, real fruit juices and lemonade. In 2004 it introduced 64-ounce cartons to the dairy departments of major supermarkets. The Republic of Tea has ready-to-drink tea available in both glass and plastic bottles. It offers nine flavors in glass bottles and 19 flavors in plastic bottles.


The U.S. retail tea market is segmented into tea bags, loose tea, iced-tea mix, instant tea, and ready-to-drink teas. Makers target the ready-to-drink segment. In 2007, Beverage World reported percentage shares of each of these five segments from 2001 and 2005, primarily to demonstrate how quickly the ready-to-drink market is growing compared to traditional tea bags, loose tea, iced teas, and instant teas. While tea bags dominate the market with 62 percent of total market share, the market share of ready-to-drink teas grew in five years to 27 percent, taking market share from tea bags, iced-tea mix, and instant tea. As a result, supermarkets are devoting space for ready-to-drink teas in the carbonated soft drink aisle and in the bottled water aisle. Supermarkets are also dedicating space for ready-to-drink tea in the dairy and produce departments.

Ready-to-drink teas have become fashionable in the early 2000s. Tea companies target younger consumers such as teens and college students with its bottled tea products. These are easy and mobile products for a young clientele often on the move. The number of twenty to thirty-four year-olds drinking tea increased in 2005 for the first time in three years. Nearly two-thirds of the age group reported regularly opting for tea, at the expense of beverages such as alcohol and carbonated soft drinks.

The leading U.S.-based tea company, Celestial Seasonings, led in targeting the rapidly growing Hispanic market. In 2004 it targeted more than 10 key markets with high Hispanic concentration, including the cities of Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Phoenix, and Houston. Celestial Seasonings developed special bilingual packaging on which, instead of Spanish being the second language, all designs were Spanish-first. The Spanish-language line featured four herbal teas: honey lemon diet, apple banana chamomile, cinnamon apple, and linden mint.


Ethical Tea Partnership, http://www.ethicalteapartnership.org

International Tea Committee, http://www.inttea.com

Tea Association of Canada, http://www.tea.ca

Tea Association of the United States of America, http://www.teausa.com

Tea Industry Forum in Australia, http://www.tea.org.au

United Kingdom Tea Council, http://www.tea.co.uk


Berry, Donna. "My Tea Party: Demand and Trends in Tea." Dairy Foods. 10 March 2006.

"Commodities: World Tea Production Reached New Highs in 2004." Europe Agri. 22 July 2005.

Cosgrove, Joanna."Reinventing the Leaves and Beans: New RTD Teas and Coffees." Beverage Industry. February 2006.

Fabricant, Florence. "Brewing for the True Believer: Tea's Got a Brand New Bag." New York Times. 13 September 2006.

Hasler, C.M. et al. "Position of the American Dietetic Association: Functional Foods." Journal of the American Dietetic Association. May 2004.

Keating, Brian. "The US RTD Tea Market." Beverage World. 15 January 2007.

"Mighty Leaf Tea Awarded Best New Green Packaging at SCAA Show." Mighty Leaf Tea. Press Release, 11 April 2006.

Montalvo, Kristin V. "The Tea Tempest." Gourmet Retailer. February 2007.

Perman, Stacy. "High Time for Tea in America." Business Week. 8 March 2006.

Reyes, Sonia. "Celestial Tries to Bag Hispanics." Brandweek. 22 November 2004.

Segal, Marian. "Tea: A Story of Serendipity." FDA Consumer. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. March 1996.

"Tea and RTD Tea." Mintel Group. May 2007.

"The US RTD Tea Market." Beverage World. 15 January 2007.

Waddington, Bill. "Get Loose: The benefits of loose tea." Tea & Coffee Trade Journal. 20 July 2006.

see also Coffee


views updated May 18 2018


In the broadest sense, tea is a water extract of leaves, blossoms, roots, bark, or other parts of plants. The extraction can be done by soaking, boiling, and steeping (soaking in water below the boiling point). The extract can be an ordinary beverage or a medication.

The most common tea is from the leaves of the plant known as Camel-lia sinensis. Chinese legend attributes the accidental discovery (around 2700 B.C.E.) of drink made from this plant to King Shen Nong, who noticed tea leaves had blown into his kettle of boiling water. The tea that Shen Nong most probably drank is green tea, which quickly became the most popular beverage in China, Japan, Korea, and the countries of Southeast Asia. (Its popularity has continued, and in fact, tea brewed from Camellia sinensis is second only to water as the world's most popular beverage.) Unlike orange pekoe (a black tea, which is most identified as tea by consumers in the United States), fresh green tea beverage is tinted apple green, hence its name. Other teas from Camellia sinensis are broadly termed black, red, and yellow according to the appearance of either the dried leaf or its extract.

Tea Processing

All Camellia sinensis teas are from the growing ends and buds (called the flushes) of the tea tree or shrub. Flushes that undergo a process called fermentation become black, red, or yellow teas. This process is not the one in

Principal ProducersQuantity Produced (in metric tons)Quantity Exported (in metric tons)
Sri Lanka280,056267,726
source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

which microbes are added to make alcohol-containing beverages, cheese, sauerkraut, and other foods. Rather, an enzyme (catalyst) changes molecules called polyphenols that are green into more complex polyphenols that are red and yellow. Both the enzyme and the polyphenols are in (and not added to) the tea leaf, and leaf fermentation is activated first by withering (slow drying of the leaves) and then by rolling (pressing the leaves so that the sap comes to the surface). Black tea is made when the fresh tea leaves are allowed to totally ferment (100 percent). Partial fermentation of 10 to 15 percent and 20 to 30 percent yields yellow and red (sometimes known as oolong) teas, respectively. Steaming or roasting the leaves to inactivate the enzymes soon after harvest prevents fermentation, and these are the first steps in green tea manufacture.

Health Benefits

Tea has been called an elixir of life and is commonly used as an antidote to mental fatigue. This effect may in fact be caffeine-induced. Although there is less in tea than in coffee, enough caffeine is present in a cup of tea to dilate the brain's blood vessels. Tea seems to have a wide range of health benefits, as a survey of the scientific literature between 1998 and 2000 attests. The two principal active ingredients are the tea polyphenols (a group of six chemically and structurally related molecules) and theanine (an unusual amino acid found in green but not black tea beverage). (Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.) Like vitamins C and E, the tea polyphenols are antioxidants that may slow the onset of atherosclerosis, some forms of cancer, and the onset and severity of arthritis. Nonantioxidant properties of tea polyphenols also may contribute to their overall effectiveness in disease prevention. Evidence is mounting to suggest theanine can help anti-cancer chemicals (such as doxorubicin) kill tumor cells more specifically, but how it does this is still unknown.

Economic Importance of Tea

Worldwide tea production was over 3 million metric tons (worth about $8 billion to growers) in 1998. India and China produced about half of this output, most of it for internal consumption. Whereas China and Japan produce mainly green and partially fermented teas, the other growers supply mainly black teas. The world's largest importers of tea are the United Kingdom,

Principal ConsumersQuantity Imported (in metric tons)
United Kingdom175,829
Russian Federation150,225
United States96,646
source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

the Russian Federation, Pakistan, and the United States. However, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Syria, and Iran are the world's leading consumers on a per-capita basis.

The estimated wholesale value of the U.S. tea industry has risen from $1.84 billion in 1990 to $4.60 billion in 1999 and continues to rise, according to the U.S. Tea Association. The largest segment of that growth was due to the increased consumption of ready-to-drink teas, which rose from $0.2 billion to $1.65 billion dollars during this period.

Herbal Tea

Herbal teas, like regular tea, have been consumed for eons and for the same calming, stimulating, or medicinal reasons. Tea made from chamomile flowers steeped for more than thirty minutes in boiling water is said to be a sedative that also soothes indigestion. Tea made from the rootstock of comfrey was believed to heal broken bones and be a good gargle for sore throat and cure bleeding gums. Tea made from sassafras root bark or leaves may have the pleasant taste of root beer but will cause the drinker to perspire and urinate. This tea has been used for everything from a blood-thinner to a cure for rheumatism and syphilis. Indeed, teas can be made from many plants and may contain thousands of active compounds . The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that herbal tea drinkers use caution. Chamomile can cause a severe allergic reaction in people with sensitivity to ragweed, asters, or chrysanthemums. Liver disease has been reported in drinkers of large amounts of comfrey tea (ten or more cups a day), and comfrey contains a chemical that causes cancer in rats. The major chemical components of sassafras tea, once used to flavor root beer, were banned thirty years ago because they caused cancer in rats. The use of caution means moderationdaily consumption of any particular herbal tea for not more than two to three days at a timeand avoidanceby children, pregnant women, or nursing mothers.

see also Coffee; Economic Importance of Plants; Herbals and Herbalists; Herbs and Spices; Medicinal Plants.

Robert Gutman


Gutman, Robert L., and Beung-Ho Ryu. "Rediscovering Tea: An Exploration of the Scientific Literature." HerbalGram 37 (1996): 33-48.

Snider, S. "Herbal Teas and Toxicity." FDA Consumer 25, no. 4 (1991): 30-33.

Tyler, Varro. The Honest Herbal: A Sensible Guide to the Use of Herbs and Related Remedies. New York: Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1993.

Willson, Kenneth C., and Michael N. Clifford, eds. Tea: Cultivation and Consumption. London: Chapman & Hall, 1992.


views updated May 09 2018


China's tea production and distribution were under the control of the imperial government during the Song dynasty (960–1279). Ming dynasty (1368–1644) revenue objectives were far less ambitious, for the Ming state largely limited its involvement to the overland tea exchange with Inner Asia, where Chinese tea was bartered for nomadic horses. Officials ran a network of tea-horse trading stations along the northwest frontiers with Mongolia and Tibet to curb smuggling and enforce an export monopoly. By the late Ming dynasty in the sixteenth century, this system had disintegrated, replaced by virtually unregulated private trade. The successor Qing dynasty (1644–1911) controlled Inner Asia and its pasturelands, and had little need to revive the tea-horse trade.

During the Qing dynasty, the tea trade with Mongolia and Tibet was dominated by well-organized Chinese caravan traders. Brick or compressed tea, portable and long-lasting, became so important in Inner Asian economies that it was used as a form of currency. During the early nineteenth century, a caravan trader exported increasing amounts of tea to Russia. From the mid-1800s, Russian firms gained direct marketing power over this overland commerce by buying, processing, and shipping brick tea and other types of tea from central China—a situation which prevailed until the Russian Revolution of 1917.


In the 1750s the Qing dynasty, concerned with security but desiring limited trade contracts with Europe, confined Western trade to the major port of Canton (Guangzhou) on China's southern coast. Further restrictions were imposed on foreign merchants under what came to be known as the Canton System. One major restriction was that all commerce had to take place only with a group of state-licensed Chinese traders (the Cohong). This monopolistic arrangement allowed for mutually profitable commerce until the early nineteenth century. Trade on the European side was dominated by exclusive trading organizations, the East India companies, which were chartered joint-stock enterprises and early versions of modern multinational capitalist corporations. Two famous examples were the English East India Company (founded in 1600) and its long-time rival the Dutch East Indies Company (established in 1602). Granted official monopolies of trade between their home countries and southern and eastern Asia, the companies set up numerous coastal trading stations (or factories) in those regions.

The mid-eighteenth century saw the English East India Company eclipsing all the others, and controlling a triangular trade between India (which it in fact conquered and ruled until the mid-1800s), China, and the United Kingdom. Tea, silver, and eventually opium came to be the most important commodities in this complex exchange.

Tea drinking was a novelty in Europe in the seventeenth century, but the demand for tea rose dramatically in the 1700s. This was especially so in Great Britain, whose legal tea imports doubled in a generation (to 4,728,000 pounds in 1750). Extremely high customs duties levied by the British government, as well as the East India Company's monopoly pricing of tea imports, contributed to the rapid growth of tea smuggling, which ceased when British tea taxes were reduced from 119 percent to 12.5 percent per pound by Parliament in 1787. Across the Atlantic Ocean, tea taxation had already become a contentious issue in the onset of the American Revolution. When Parliament in 1773 extended the East India Company's monopoly of tea exports and distribution to England's American colonies, the measure (along with the tea taxes themselves) sparked widespread protests and popular violence. This is best symbolized by the destruction of some 10,000 pounds sterling worth of tea in the Boston Tea Party of December 16, 1773. Britain's immediate response was punitive, and the repressive measures taken then against both Boston and Massachusetts provoked a lasting break with the American colonies.

The mercantilist economic logic of the time held that the export of gold or silver specie or bullion was a last resort in settling international trade deficits. This posed particular problems in the China trade. Since Chinese demand for European goods was quite limited, and China's tea, silk, and porcelain (china) exports to the West mounted in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, silver steadily flowed to China. This "silver drain" problem, as it was generally considered in the West, was finally solved by China's own rising opium importation in the early nineteenth century. From 1729 this narcotic drug had been officially banned time and again by Qing authorities, yet opium exports from India became an essential means of financing the English East India Company's annual tea exports from Canton. The trade was done indirectly through private foreign merchants operating under East India Company licenses, so as not to jeopardize the Company's legitimate commerce at Canton. China's domestic demand for opium grew in tandem with the expansion of Sino-foreign trade, leading to a reverse silver drain from China. That issue, as well as the Qing Empire's efforts to halt opium imports, eventually resulted in the Opium War with Great Britain in 1839 to 1842. China's humbling defeat insured that opium imports would continue, while its own tea exports rapidly expanded over the second half of the nineteenth century.


After 1842 five Chinese treaty ports were opened to foreign trade and residence, and dozens more followed over the next half-century. Coastal and riverine ports such as Shanghai, Fuzhou, and Hankou became centers of a booming tea export trade from the late 1840s to the 1880s. The trade was greatly facilitated by new forms of maritime cargo vessels (the clipper ships and soon thereafter, steamships) and global telegraph communications, which reduced the risk and cost of long-distance commercial transactions.

As early as 1800 about 35 percent of the total annual value of English imports consisted of so-called "tropical groceries" such as tea, coffee, sugar, rice, and pepper. Use of sugar in ever-increasing amounts was closely linked with the growing importation of stimulant beverages—tea, coffee, and chocolate—because sweetening was needed to naturalize these drinks into English dietary habits. Tea, bread, and jam became the convenience foods of the masses in mid-nineteenth-century Great Britain. Per capita average consumption of tea in that country rose from 1.41 pounds in 1801 to 1810 to 5.70 pounds in 1891 to 1900. Tea drinking further contributed to a temperance movement, reducing the popular addiction to alcoholic beverages (gin in particular) that threatened to sabotage Britain's eighteenth- and nineteenth-century industrialization (hence the expression teetotaler for alcohol avoiders).

Until well into the second half of the nineteenth century, Chinese tea dominated world markets. Tea growing and preliminary processing (into crude tea, which was then sold and commercially reprocessed for domestic or export markets) was traditionally a village enterprise in China. Farmers commonly regarded tea as a sideline cash crop, and production was small-scale, frequently haphazard, and widely dispersed amongst countless villages and local market towns in China's central and southern provinces. After decades of false starts and experimentation, mid-nineteenth-century British colonial entrepreneurs in northeast India (especially Assam) and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and the Dutch in the East Indies (Indonesia) successfully began the plantation cultivation of tea. Plantations soon achieved economies of scale with the centralized, quasi-militarized control of large labor forces constantly engaged in cultivation and tea picking. Pioneering the large-scale, mechanized, and standardized processing of black tea, Anglo-American corporations launched vigorous and successful marketing campaigns which made brands such as Lipton and Brooke Bond household words worldwide by the early twentieth century. China's tea trade then struggled against global competition, while plantation tea production was even further extended by then to British colonies in eastern and southern Africa (Kenya and Nyasaland or Malawi).

SEE ALSO Balance of Payments; Canton System; Caravan Trade; China; Coffee; Drugs, Illicit; East India Company, British; East India Company, Dutch; East India Company, Other; Empire, British; Empire, Dutch; Empire, Ming; Empire, Qing; Guangzhou;Hong Kong; India; Indonesia; Iran; Japan; Jardine Matheson;Mercantilism;Monopoly and Oligopoly;Shanghai;Sri Lanka;Tata Family;Theories of International Trade;Unilever;United Kingdom;United States.


Etherington, Dan M., and Forster, Keith. Green Gold: The Political Economy of China's Post-1949 Tea Industry. Hong Kong and New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Gardella, Robert. "Qing Administration of the Tea Trade: Four Facets Over Three Centuries." In To Achieve Security and Wealth: The Qing Imperial State and the Economy 1644–1911, ed. Jane Kate Leonard and John R. Watt. Ithaca, N.Y.: East Asia Program, Cornell University, 1992.

Gardella, Robert. Harvesting Mountains: Fujian and the China Tea Trade. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

Moxham, Roy. Tea: Addiction, Exploitation, and Empire. New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers, 2003.

Mui, Hoh-cheung, and Mui, Lorna H. The Management of Monopoly: A Study of the English East India Company's Conduct of Its Tea Trade, 1784–1833. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1984.

Rossabi, Morris. "The Tea and Horse Trade with Inner Asia during the Ming." Journal of Asian History 2 (1970): 136–168.

Ukers, William H. All About Tea. 2 vols. New York: The Tea and Coffee Trade Journal Company, 1935.

Robert Gardella


views updated May 29 2018


Tea became the subject of enormous consumer demand in the seventeenth century, and this demand sparked the creation of a European tea empire. An infusion drink, tea is made when tea leaves are soaked in boiling water. The heat kills off water-borne diseases, while the resulting drink contains a mild amount of caffeine. As a tasty, healthy source of quick energy, tea is best known as the national drink of the British, but it has wide appeal throughout the world.

Tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. This plant developed in the Himalaya Mountains in an indefinite area to the southeast of the Tibetan plateau. It was discovered by the Chinese, who were the first to consume tea as a beverage. The Chinese cultural influence throughout East Asia spread the popularity of tea. Buddhist monks brought the cultivation of Camellia sinensis to Japan around the twelfth century. Consumption of tea was limited to upper-class Japanese, who regarded the beverage only as a medicinal drink.

When tea leaves were packed into bricks, it became easy to trade tea. Turkish traders moved the Chinese tea bricks westward to the Mongolian border by the end of the fifth century. They exchanged the bricks for various goods. It is not clear why the spread of tea slowed, but the cost of the product may have reduced its popularity. Tea was a luxury item, and the leaves did not reach Europe for several hundred more years.

Tea was first mentioned in European sources in 1559, but it did not arrive in Europe until Dutch traders imported it from Japan in the early seventeenth century. Tea arrived in Amsterdam in 1610 before appearing in France in the 1630s and in England in 1657. The first tea served to the British public, a Dutch import, was offered at Garraway's Coffee House in London in 1657. Thomas Garraway touted the medicinal effects and virtues of the drink in the first British advertisement for tea. This new beverage captured the imagination of the English to the extent that the British East India Company commenced importing tea directly from China in its heavily armed ships in 1689.

The supply of tea brought into England by the East India Company led to a reduction in the price of the drink. It became easily affordable for most Britons. By the mid-1750s, tea houses and tea gardens were appearing throughout London. The East Indian Company made hefty profits with its tea monopoly. Sir Joseph Banks (1743–1820), a famed English explorer-botanist and the president of the Royal Society, suggested to the East India Company in 1788 that tea would grow on the southern slopes of the Himalayas. His advice was ignored until 1833 when the company's monopoly of the tea trade ended.

The Chinese knew that tea was an enormously valuable commodity. To protect their dominance of the tea industry, they prohibited tea seeds and tea makers from leaving the country. The Chinese government placed a price on the head of any merchant thought to be engaged in botanical sabotage and tried to capture the ships of suspected smugglers. The East India Company, desperate to make profits, sent one of its officers to China in 1834 to capture these industrial secrets. The trip was enormously risky, but G. J. Gordon returned to London with tea seeds and a few tea makers willing to emigrate.

Meanwhile, the Dutch had managed to acquire tea-making knowledge as well. The first five hundred tea plants to reach Java were procured from Japan by the Dutch government. The Dutch established tea estates in Java in 1828. The following year, J. I. L. L. Jacobson produced the first Javanese black tea for export by the Dutch East India Company.

In test plantings undertaken by the British, the best growing success occurred in the Brahmaputra Valley in Assam in northern India. As a result, the area was selected for major development, and the British commenced chopping down the heavy Indian forest. The Assam plantings would grow to become the largest area of tea in the world. Although Chinese tea makers were crucial in the establishment of the Assam tea industry in India, the British described them as both troublesome and insubordinate. Once others had acquired their skills and knowledge, the Chinese workers were replaced by local labor.

The Chinese method of tea manufacture was used in the East Indies until the coming of machinery. However, the planting, growing, and plucking of tea leaves is impossible to mechanize to any extent. To begin, the heavy forest growth in the jungle must be cleared. Tea plants are then set, with hoeing and weeding occurring periodically. Plucking tea leaves is the most labor intensive stage because only the top shoots can be picked. Women typically do the plucking. It has been estimated that a worker using both hands can pluck as many as thirty thousand shoots in a ten-hour day or fifty shoots per minute. Plucking takes place about every ten days, and 3,200 shoots are needed to make a pound (.45 kilograms) of tea. The tea is then carried to collection points.

The actual method of processing the tea has been industrialized. To produce dried tea leaves, moisture is first partially removed. The leaf is cut and rolled until it partially disintegrates, then it is exposed to air to ferment. Then the tea is dried or fired to completely remove moisture, after which it is sieved into size fractions, with fiber sorted out.

The tea workers, segregated from outside forces on tea estates, are typically illiterate. While the employers have always had powerful associations to protect their interests, workers have been unable to organize. As in centuries past, they suffer from low wages, poor housing, no pensions, and open drains that contribute to the spread of diseases. The death rate among tea workers is high.

The popularity of tea has expanded its range. It is produced in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), Malaysia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru, as well as in East and Central Africa.

see also Dutch United East India Company; English East India Company; Shipping, East Asia and Pacific.


Forrest, Denys. Tea for the British: The Social and Economic History of a Famous Trade. London: Chatto and Windus, 1973.

Macfarlane, Alan, and Iris Macfarlane. The Empire of Tea: The Remarkable History of the Plant That Took Over the World. Woodstock, NY: Overlook, 2004.

Willson, K. C. Coffee, Cocoa, and Tea. New York: CAB International, 1999.

Willson, K. C., and M. N. Clifford, eds. Tea: Cultivation to Consumption. London: Chapman and Hall, 1992.


views updated May 21 2018


Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, except for water, and provides over 40 percent of the world's dietary Caffeine. In the United States, caffeine from tea accounts for about 17 percent of caffeine consumed; per capita caffeine consumption from tea is about 35 milligrams per day, which is a little over one-third of the daily caffeine provided by coffee beverages. Tea consumption in the United Kingdom is substantially higher, averaging 320 milligrams per capita per day and accounting for 72 percent of the United Kingdom's caffeine consumption.

Although tea contains a large number of chemical compounds, the relatively high content of polyphenols and caffeine is responsible for tea's pharmacological effects. The primary psychoactive component of tea is caffeine. Tea also contains two compounds that are structurally related to caffeine, theophylline and Theobromine, however, these compounds are found in relatively insignificant amounts. On average, a 6-ounce (177-milliliter) cup of leaf or bag tea contains about 48 milligrams of caffeine, a little less than half the caffeine in the same amount of ground roasted coffee, and only slightly more than the amount found in 12 ounces of a typical Cola soft drink. Six ounces of instant tea contain 36 milligrams caffeine, on average. Individual servings of tea contain amounts of caffeine that can affect mood and performance of adult humans.

Although the term tea has been used to refer to extracts from a large number of plants, only teas derived from leaves of Camellia sinensis plants are of special interest here, because they contain caffeine. The term tea has come to be used especially for extracts of Camellia sinensis and that restricted usage is maintained in this entry.

Consumption of Camellia sinensis was first documented in China (where tea is called cha or chai ) in 350 a.d., although there is some suggestion that the Chinese consumed tea as early as 2700 b.c. Tea was introduced to Japan around 600 a.d. but did not become widely used there until the 1400s. Through the China trade, tea became available in England in the 1600s, where it became the national drink. Tea was introduced into the American colonies around 1650 but in 1773 became a symbol of British rule. Americans protested the British tax on tea by raiding ships anchored in Boston Harbor and dumping boxes of tea into the water. This event, referred to as the Boston Tea Party, along with other similar protests that followed, became important in shifting the predominant caffeinated beverage in North America from tea to coffee.

India, China, and Sri Lanka are the major producers and exporters of teaproducing about 60 percent of the world's tea and providing about 55 percent of world tea exports. The United Kingdom, the United States, and Pakistan are the leading importers of tea.

Two types of tea, black and green tea, account for almost all of the tea consumed in the world. Black tea makes up over 75 percent of the world's tea; green tea accounts for about 22 percent. The method by which tea is manufactured determines whether black or green tea is produced. Black tea is dark brown in color and is produced by promoting oxidation of a key tea constituent. Green tea is yellow-green in color and is produced by preventing such oxidation, a less processed tea. Oolong tea, a less common type, is partially oxidized and is intermediate in appearance to that of black and green tea. Flavored teas were originally prepared by adding a range of fruits, flowers, and other plant substances to the tea prior to final packaging, although artificial flavors are often added today.

(See also: Chocolate ; Plants, Drugs from )


Barone, J. J., & Roberts, H. (1984). Human consumption of caffeine. In P. B. Dews (Ed.), Caffeine. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Spiller, G.A. (Ed.). (1984). The methylxanthine beverages and foods: Chemistry, consumption, and health effects. New York: Alan R. Liss.

Kenneth Silverman

Roland R. Griffiths

Tea (Meal)

views updated Jun 11 2018

Tea (Meal)

The year 1840 is a landmark in culinary history. Antoine's restaurant had its beginnings in New Orleans, San Francisco consumed the first vintage of commercially produced California wine, and London society imitated Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford (17881861), with her cure for what she described as "a sinking feeling" she suffered each afternoon. It was then customary in England for the aristocracy to eat a huge breakfast, make do with a small lunch, and sit down to a substantial meal for dinner at eight o'clock or after. Milady's late afternoon discomfort was shared by many another and so was her cure: She ordered tea and a collation of sandwiches and cakes to complement the tea to be served daily at the stroke of five and invited friends to join her.

From the 1840s on, the tradition of afternoon tea with sandwiches and pastries trickled down from the aristocracy to enter English life at large. By the year of Anna's death, the conservative Mrs. Beeton's authoritative Household Management pronounced afternoon tea"a meal of elegant trifles"to be obligatory in any well-run Victorian household. Not long after Anna's death, the novelist George Gissing was to write, as if in tribute to her, "Nowhere is the English genius for domesticity more notably evidenced than in the festival of afternoon tea." As it began, so it remained essentially a female ritual, but gradually two distinct "teas" evolved.

Aristocratic homes served what was called "low tea" in the afternoon. This was a repast of "elegant trifles" like cucumber sandwiches and other finger foods rather than solid nutrition; the emphasis was placed upon presentation of the foods and socializing over the delicacies. This "terribly, terribly nice" affair became known as "low tea" in contrast to the petty bourgeois and working class custom of "high tea," which has also been called "meat tea" or "farmhouse tea." These are family affairshearty, lavish spreads to satisfy the appetites of workers home from toiling and children hungry after school. High tea serves the humbler classes in Britain as the evening meal and often consists of such left-overs as cold joints of mutton, with fresh baked scones, buns, or biscuits and tea in abundance to warm the belly and banish fatigue. "High tea" is not parallel to "high church"; the more elegant and ceremonious the tea, the further it departs from high tea. In Britain during Victoria's later years, teatime migrated from five o'clock to four, and its ceremonial aspects attained the very height of ostentation. Besides the evidence of Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest and Saki's short story "Tea," we have historical accounts of these excesses. Margot Asquith, second wife of the British Liberal prime minister Lord Herbert Asquith (18521928), writes in her autobiography how the Rothschild family kept great state in, among other places, their home in Waddesdon, where one day Prime Minister Asquith was waited on at teatime by the butler. "Tea, coffee, or a peach from the wall, sir?" "Tea, please." "China, Indian or Ceylon, sir?" "China, please." "Lemon, milk, or cream, sir?" "Milk, please." "Jersey, Holstein, or Shorthorn, sir?" Volumes could be written.

See also British Isles ; Coffee ; Dinner ; India ; Lunch ; Meal ; Restaurants ; Stimulants .


Asquith, Margot. The Autobiography of Margot Asquith. Abridged edition, edited by Mark Bonham Carter. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1995.

Burnett, John. Plenty and Want: A Social History of Diet in England from 1815 to the Present Day. London: Scolar Press, 1979.

Hartley, Dorothy. Food in England. London: MacDonald and Jane's, 1954; Little, Brown, 1996.

Wilson, C. Anne, ed. Luncheon, Nuncheon, and Other Meals: Eating with the Victorians. Stroud, U.K.: Alan Sutton, 1994.

James Norwood Pratt


views updated Jun 27 2018

tea / / • n. 1. a hot drink made by infusing the dried, crushed leaves of the tea plant in boiling water. ∎  the dried leaves used to make such a drink. ∎  (also iced tea) such a drink served cold with ice cubes. ∎  a hot drink made from the infused leaves, fruits, or flowers of other plants: herbal tea | fruit teas. 2. (also tea plant) the evergreen shrub or small tree (Camellia sinensis, family Theaceae) that produces these leaves, native to South and eastern Asia and grown as a major cash crop. 3. chiefly Brit. a light afternoon meal consisting typically of tea to drink, sandwiches, and cakes. ∎ Brit. a cooked evening meal.See also high tea. 4. inf. another term for marijuana. PHRASES: not for all the tea in China inf. there is nothing at all that could induce one to do something: I wouldn't do that girl's job—not for all the tea in China.tea and sympathy inf. kind and attentive behavior toward someone who is upset or in trouble.ORIGIN: mid 17th cent.: probably via Malay from Chinese (Min dialect) te.


views updated May 23 2018


A drink for social occasions and after meals.

In the Middle East, tea is a popular drink brewed with the leaves and water in a kettle (although tea bags are becoming more common). Hot tea is strained into small glasses, often set in decorative metal holders, and served with various additions depending on region and personal taste. These include sugar, honey, lemon, apple flavoring, and mint. (Mint tea is also a very popular digestive drink; it is made solely from mint leaves of the genus Mentha, which grow throughout the Mediterranean region and Eurasia.)

Tea is imported to the Middle East from the Asian tea plantations of China, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, and islands of the East Indies. It is also cultivated along Iran's Caspian Sea coast and Turkey's Black Sea coast. Originally it came into the region by way of ancient caravan routes along the Silk Road (from China to Iran to the Black Sea and Constantinople) or ship routes from the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean into the Arabian Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Red Sea.


Hartel, Herbert, et al. Along the Ancient Silk Routes. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1982.

clifford a. wright
updated by eric hooglund


views updated Jun 08 2018

tea A beverage prepared by infusion of the young leaves, leaf buds, and internodes of varieties of Camellia sinensis and C. assamica, originating from China. Green tea is dried without further treatment. Black tea is fermented (actually an oxidation) before drying; Oolong tea is lightly fermented. Among the black teas, Flowering Pekoe is made from the top leaf buds, Orange Pekoe from first opened leaf, Pekoe from third leaves, and Souchong from next leaves. Tea bags were introduced in New York by Thomas Sullivan in 1908, initially as a means of sending samples of tea to customers in muslin bags rather than tin cans.

See also caffeine; herb tea; xanthines.


views updated May 21 2018


Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, except for water. Over 40 percent of the world's caffeine intake comes from tea. In the United States, caffeine from tea accounts for about 17 percent of caffeine consumed. On average, a 6-ounce cup of leaf or bag tea contains about 48 milligrams of caffeine, a little less than half the caffeine in the same amount of ground roasted coffee, and only slightly more than the amount found in 12 ounces of a cola soft drink. Single servings of tea contain amounts of caffeine that can affect people's moods and performance.

see also Caffeine; Chocolate; Cola Drinks.