India falls behind many countries in tea consumption

Written by Rajesh Ravi | Kochi, Sep 28 | Updated: Sep 30 2008, 04:34am hrs
If you ever had the misconception that India leads in per capita tea consumption, think again. India falls behind many nations, including its immediate neighbors like Pakistan and Bangladesh in gulping the ubiquitous concoction of chai. According to the latest survey done by Org-Marg for the Tea Board, the per capita consumption of tea is put at 0.8 kg, which is far below the record of the UK, with 2.5 kg and Ireland with 1.5 kg. Tea Board sources point out that Pakistan (0.95 kg) Bangladesh and Sri Lanka (1.2 kg) are above the Indian per capita consumption.

Board sources add that the problem is compounded by the fact that tea-producing states like West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Assam fare badly in consumption, while states like Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan show good per capita consumption. Given the fact that tea is now considered a health drink, increasing tea consumption domestically would protect the tea industry from the vicissitudes of the export market, board sources said. The board is now trying to increase the acceptability of the drink among youth by promoting various ways by which tea can be consumed.

Indians take tea with cream and sugar, and, sometimes with cardamom or ginger and chai masala. Promotion of iced tea could help in increasing the consumption, as developed nations have shown that less than 1% of the tea consumed there is brewed from loose tea. More than 60% of tea consumption in the US is in the form of tea bags. Tea experts attest to the importance of the "convenience factor" in tea's growing popularity. The demand for convenience has led to the recent packaging of ready-to-drink iced tea in cans, bottles, and plastic containers. Ready-to-drink teas are the fastest-growing products in the supermarket.

The importance of increasing tea consumption can be summarised by an IIM study, which points that if Indians could drink half a cup more per day, the problem of surpluses will disappear and that could make buffers history. Such is the power of even a small increase in consumption for a large population base.