Ever since it was first discovered in China in 2737 BC tea has been one of the most popular beverages across the world. Today tea is cultivated all over the world, primarily in Asia and Africa, however, it’s commercially produced by more than 60 countries. Here’s a list of the top 10 tea-producing countries in the world from 2020 to 2023.
It would seem by happy coincidence that tea was first discovered (at least as the story goes…) by Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, who first tasted the beverage when he and his soldiers were busy sheltering under a tree. Several windblown leaves fell into a pot of boiling water, which in turn infused into the water, and tea as a beverage became a reality.
Whether or not this tale is a little tall doesn’t really matter, whatever the truth of its origins tea rapidly became a staple within Asian culture, as a drink, a medicinal cure-all, and a symbolic part of religious rituals.
Since the 10th century, tea has steadily spread along numerous trade routes through the Middle East and the Himalayas into northern India, eventually reaching these shores by the 10th century via Holland.
So let’s travel a little and go on an international journey of tea discovery to find out who are the top 10 tea-producing countries in the world…
1. CHINA – Produces almost every year 2,400,000 TONNES
Unsurprisingly China is top of the charts as the spiritual home of the humble cuppa and tops the list as the world’s largest tea-producing country.
China produces some 40% of the world’s tea weighing in at 2.4 million tonnes. It’s primarily grown in the provinces of Yunnan, Guangdong, and Zhejiang. While it’s the biggest exporter and grower of tea, China produces some of the best teas out there including Lapsang Souchong, Keemun, and Green Gunpowder.
2. INDIA – Produces almost every year 900,000 TONNES
900,000 tonnes are produced in India annually making it the world’s second-largest producer of tea with the crop being grown in bulk across Darjeeling, Nilgiri, and Assam.
The British introduced the crop commercially in 1824 to compete with neighboring China’s tea production monopoly.
3. KENYA – Produces almost every year 305,000 TONNES
The top tea-producing country in Africa is Kenya, which harvests just under 305,000 tonnes of tea each year. Kenya claims the accolade of being the world’s top black tea-producing country, with teas grown in the Kericho region, the Nyambene Hills, and Nandi.
Tea was first introduced to Kenya in 1903 by GWL Caine and fully commercialized by 1924 for Brooke Bond by Malcolm Bell who was sent out for that specific purpose.
The venture worked. India has been producing the most tea for over 100 years.
4. SRI LANKA – Produces almost every year 300,000 TONNES
Heading back to Asia and to Sri Lanka, which produces just under 300,000 tonnes, around 17% of the world’s tea crop is grown in the central mountains. Sought teas like Dimbula, Kenilworth, and Uva are cultivated here such as Ceylon.
The British in a bid to compete with China‘s tea production introduced the crop in 1867 and ever since the country has produced some of the world’s finest single-origin teas.
5. TURKEY – Produces almost every year 175,000 TONNES
At number 5 on our list Turkey grows 175,000 tonnes of tea.
Notably, they grow Riza, which is a tea from the region of the same name found on the Black Sea coast. Despite a relatively modest harvest people in Turkey drink more tea per person than any other nation on the planet which as Brits, we find hard to believe!
6. INDONESIA – Produces almost every year 157,000 TONNES
Indonesia produces 157,000 tonnes of tea annually. The crop was introduced in the 1700s by the Dutch East India Company during colonial rule, producing mostly black and green teas from Indian Assam varieties. The Indonesian climate allows these tea varieties to thrive.
7. VIETNAM – Produces almost every year 117,000 TONNES
Heading across Asia we find Vietnam, where the French introduced the crop to them during their period of colonial rule. Vietnam produces in the region of 117,000 tonnes of tea per year.
The Yen Bai province in North Vietnam cultivates a wide variety of tea leaves including green, black, and white, as well as some specialty teas flavored with flowers including lotus tea.
8. Bangladesh – Produces almost every year 96,510 TONNES
Tea production has expanded in Bangladesh over the past decade. About 96.51 million kgs were produced in 2021, up by some 54 percent from that in the old year. This is the highest amount produced in a year in the 167-year history of the region’s commercial tea cultivation.
Bangladesh is progressing in the tea industry along with other countries of the world. They produce tea in three valleys namely Surma Valley, Halda Valley, and Karatoa Valley, now they are second in production in Plains tea, being close to Darjeeling the quality of tea is very good and available at low prices.
9. JAPAN – Produces almost every year 89,000 TONNES
Japan produces around 89,000 tonnes of mostly green tea in the regions of Shizuoka, Kagoshima, and Uji. Tea has enormous cultural significance in Japan; it’s their most popular drink and is central to tea ceremonies.
Tea may have been introduced to the islands as early as the 6th century by Buddhist monks. The drink quickly became aligned with religious ceremonies with accounts of tea being served by Emperor Shōmu to 100 monks.
10. IRAN – Produces almost every year 84,000 TONNES
Heading across the Indian Ocean we find ourselves in the Middle East, in the unlikely tea-producing country of Iran and the Caspian sea region of Gilan, which produces just under 84,000 tonnes of tea.
Tea first appeared as a drink in that region in the 15th century, due to the trade along the famous Silk Road and it quickly became popular. However, the crop wasn’t grown in the country until 1899 when Prince Mohammad Mirza smuggled tea bushes from India into the city of Lahijan and began cultivating the harvest, with the first modern tea factory being established in 1934.
Friends then saw the top 10 tea-producing countries, which meet the needs of all countries in the world. In addition to meeting the needs of their own country by exporting tea to other countries, it has contributed a lot to everyone as a second drink. So we say “Salute” to all those associated with the tea industry who fulfill the demand for tea in the world.
Power by Indigo Brokers Limited and Global Tea Auction.