The commonly accepted wisdom is that tea is the second most popular beverage in the world, after water. If you don’t believe me then head to that repository of all known wisdom – the Internet – where this theory has been shared more times than you can shake a teaspoon at. Whether it’s true or not is not for me to say, but good luck trying to find “proof” of this notion. It’s an idea I looked into in an article a while back and no, I didn’t find any concrete evidence to support the claim.

English Breakfast Tea No. 2 (ETS Image)

English Breakfast Tea No. 2 (ETS Image)

But I don’t have a problem with this concept and it’s one that got me to thinking about how many people actually drink tea. I realized from the start that it would be a tricky question to answer, but I thought I’d give it a whirl even so. Before doing any “real” research on the matter I thought I’d turn to the old wisdom repository and see if there was any kind of consensus on the matter.

As it turns out, a site called Statistic Brain seems to have solved the problem for me. They claim that the “Number of men and women who drink tea every morning” is two billion. They also state that worldwide production of tea is three million tons annually, in case you were wondering about that one, although current figures from a variety of other sources actually suggest that the number now exceeds four million tons.

All of which seems a bit problematic. I don’t necessarily disagree that there are two billion people who drink tea every day but it seems like a suspiciously round number. There’s also no mention of how the figure was arrived at other than to cite World Tea Expo and a blog called The Tea Drinker as sources. So while one might take that number with a grain of salt the truth is that it’s not an easy question to answer with any precision.

While figuring out how many people drink tea worldwide is a tricky question, there are actually some stats available for specific countries. The Tea Association of the USA claims that “on any given day, over 158 million Americans are drinking tea,” while the Tea Association of Canada says that “Canadians drink almost 9 billion cups of tea each year.” As for those avid tea swillers in the UK, according to the UK Tea Council, 66 percent of them drink tea every day, which breaks down to more than 40 million people.

Perhaps the best indicator – albeit a rough one – of how many people drink tea comes from stats from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), which claimed that worldwide four million tons of the stuff were consumed in 2010. Using the standard measure for a cup of tea that breaks down to nearly 4.5 billion cups of tea consumed every day around the world. While it’s also tricky to say how many cups of tea the average tea drinker puts away in a day’s time, if you assume that it’s two, that would break down to about 2.2 billion people. Which is not all that far removed from 2 billion, now that you mention it.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

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