Tea — India’s National Drink?

Twinings Earl Grey
Twinings Earl Grey

It seems like a natural assumption that people who live in countries that grow a lot of tea drink more of it than those in other countries. But it’s not always true. The Chinese, who grow more tea than any other nation, are ranked 33rd on the list of tea consumption on a per capita basis. As for India, the world’s second largest tea growing country, they rank 53rd on the list, drinking an average of just over a pound of tea per person per year. For some perspective on the matter, consider that the world’s top tea drinkers, in the United Arab Emirates, average nearly fourteen pounds of tea a year.

Regardless of how much tea the average Indian drinks, there’s been something of a buzz in the press there recently about a proposal to make tea the country’s national drink. Government officials suggested as much in late April, though if such an initiative did actually come to pass it may not be put into place until next year.

Needless to say, those in India’s tea industry would benefit from such an initiative in a number of ways, but the news did stir up some controversy. This came from at least one business group, specifically the dairy industry, who felt that their milk should be given a fair shot at being India’s national drink.

A recent article from the BBC News may help go a long way toward explaining why India’s citizens are not among the world’s top tea drinkers. As the rather in-depth article notes, tea drinking was on the rise in the early part of the twentieth century before a backlash started, partly as a response to the British colonial “overlords” who made India a tea producer in the first place and who exported and consumed so much of it themselves. Among those who gave tea the thumbs down were Mahatma Gandhi, who declared that it was not well suited for human consumption.

Other tea-related news out of India saw a recent visit there by one Stephen H.B. Twining, a 10th-generation descendant of the tea merchant who kicked off the Twinings dynasty more than 300 years ago. As this article noted, Twinings was there in part to push his company’s tea bag products, which might be something of a tough sell in a country better known for brewing loose tea.

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3 thoughts on “Tea — India’s National Drink?

  1. Pingback: News Bites From the World of Tea « Tea Blog

  2. Hi,
    Yes, India is not a tea-bag country. We make most of our tea through black tea powder and Twinings has tough competition from established players including Taj Mahal and Brooke Bond.
    Also, most tea consumers are from north India and a majority of south Indians are coffee-lovers! Be sure that cafe chains such as Cafe Coffee Day are surely going to protest. I have also written a blog on this national drink development called “Mind it, Chai is not your Ordinary Indian Beverage!”. It would be great if you can read it at: [link removed per blog policy]

  3. Pingback: Tea — India’s National Drink? | Sanctuary Guest House

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