International Tea Day is observed annually to celebrate the cultural and economic significance of tea or chai where the day aims to promote and raise awareness about the diverse aspects of tea, including its history, production, consumption and health benefits. International Tea Day serves as a platform to highlight the significance of tea in our daily lives, promote sustainable practices in the tea industry and appreciate the cultural diversity associated with this beloved beverage and it is a time to reflect on the importance of tea as a global phenomenon and to enjoy and share the experience of tea with others.
The first International Tea Day was celebrated in India’s capital city, New Delhi, in 2005 and the celebrations were later followed by other tea growing countries – Sri Lanka, Nepal, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Kenya, Malawi, Malaysia, Uganda and Tanzania. Ten years later, the Indian government proposed in 2015 to expand the observance of International Tea Day through the FAO Intergovernmental Group on Tea which leads multilateral efforts to support the world tea economy and has been instrumental in proclamation of the International Tea Day
The idea was carried forward during a meeting in Italy’s Milan in the same year when the proposal was endorsed by the FAO Committee on Commodity Problems. In December 2019, re-emphasizing the call from the Intergovernmental Group on Tea to direct greater efforts towards expanding demand, particularly in tea-producing countries, where per capita consumption is relatively low and supporting efforts to address the declining per capita consumption in traditional importing countries, the United Nations’ General Assembly decided to designate 21 May as International Tea Day.
There is some discrepancy regarding the date of International Tea Day. While the United Nations General Assembly established International Tea Day on December 15th, it’s worth noting that there was already an existing observance of International Tea Day on May 21st.
The December 15th International Tea Day recognised by the United Nations aims to acknowledge the cultural and economic significance of tea globally, emphasizing its impact on livelihoods and sustainability. This observance intends to raise awareness about the value of tea as well as promote sustainable tea production and fair trade practices while the International Tea Day celebrated on May 21st has its roots in the tea-producing countries of the World Tea Conference, which proposed the date to commemorate the signing of the First International Tea Agreement in 2005 and this observance focuses on promoting tea production, consumption and cultural aspects.
As per the United Nations, there is evidence that tea was consumed in China 5,000 years ago. The story goes that Chinese Emperor Shen Nung first tasted the beverage when he and his soldiers were busy sheltering under a tree and some windblown tea leaves fell into a pot of boiling water which then infused into it and resulted into today’s most consumed drink.
First discovered in China in 2737 BC, tea went on to become a staple within Asian culture where it was a symbolic part of religious rituals before it turned into a drink and a medicinal cure. To compete with China’s tea production monopoly, Britishers first introduced the tea crop commercially in India in 1824 and ever since then, it is grown in bulk across Darjeeling, Nilgiri and Assam with 900,000 tonnes of tea reportedly produced in the country.
International Tea Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2019. The resolution recognised the importance of tea as a traditional beverage in many cultures and its contribution to the livelihoods of millions of people worldwide.
Tea has a long history and is deeply ingrained in the cultures of various countries where it is not only a popular beverage but also plays a significant role in social customs, ceremonies, and hospitality in many societies. The tea industry is a major source of livelihood for millions of people around the world, especially in tea-producing regions and the International Tea Day recognises the economic value of the tea sector and aims to promote sustainable tea production and fair trade practices.
Promoting sustainability, International Tea Day emphasises the importance of sustainable tea production and consumption, encourages practices that promote environmental conservation, protect biodiversity, ensure fair wages for workers and promote social development in tea-growing regions. Tea, particularly green and herbal teas, has been associated with various health benefits as it is rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals that may have positive effects on overall health and well-being hence, International Tea Day raises awareness about the potential health benefits of tea consumption.
On International Tea Day, various events, seminars, workshops and cultural activities are organised worldwide to celebrate tea and its cultural diversity. These events may include tea tastings, exhibitions, tea ceremonies, educational sessions, and discussions on the tea industry’s social and economic aspects.
International Tea Day provides an opportunity for tea-producing countries, international organisations, governments and tea enthusiasts to collaborate and exchange knowledge and experiences related to tea production, trade and consumption.