Kenya smallholder tea farmers earn Sh63.6 billion from tea exports
Tea health benefits pushes tea consumption in the United States
By Ben Kinyanjui
Tea exports to the US have increased 14.4 per cent due to perceived health benefits in tea, says President of the Tea Association of the USA Mr Joseph Simrany.
He however says although the health message is an important contributor to the recent growth of tea in the world’s largest economy, it is not the only reason why tea is becoming popular.
“The introduction of good tasting RTD teas in cans and bottles has opened up a new demographic category consisting of teenagers and young adults,” he says.
“These non-traditional tea consumers are attracted to RTD tea because of its convenience and ready availability.”
He says this certainly bodes well for the continued expansion of the category as, over time, as these young consumers age, they will move on and try more traditional forms of tea adding to the total population base consuming tea”
Tea to the US increased to126.8 million kilograms, 14.4 per cent higher than the previous year.
Black tea at 82.5 per cent represented the biggest segment with most of the remaining teas import being green.
Kenya is a leading exporter of black tea though its export markets have been remained in Asia and Africa, with Pakistan, Egypt, United Kingdom and Afghanistan commanding over 50 per cent of the export volumes.
With the increased imports into the USA, Kenya stands a chance to increase its volume to the country though market penetration would depend on marketing agencies and private sector player.
Total tea exports into the US was only 83 million kilograms some 2o years while value of tea consumed over the same period rose from $2 billion in 1991 to $8 billion last year.
“To have tea growing on both a pound and on a dollar basis is extraordinary especially because the number of competing beverages over this period of time has also increased dramatically, from bottled water to energy drinks,” says Simrany.
He says much of the credit for increased consumption belongs to the Tea Council of the USA who has sustained marketing campaigns pegged on health benefits of tea consumption.
The council staged a series of scientific symposiums aimed at drawing media , media and scientific communities attention to the many health benefits associated with drinking tea.
“In the process, the council stimulated further scientific research which resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of studies conducted in any given year,” says Simrany.
“The number of studies designed to uncover the health benefits of tea increased from an average of there a year globally in the early 90’s to an average of 300 per year over the last few years.”
These efforts soon involved the Tea Council of the UK, Tea Council of Canada, and the tea producing countries and the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation.
“Today the strategy of associating tea consumption with health has become the cornerstone for tea consuming countries around the world,” he says.
However, the growing number of retail and internet sites to purchase specialty tea has also heightened interest in tea in the country.
“The market for tea in the USA is hot and cold; hot from a standpoint of its impressive
and long term growth and cold from the standpoint of how it is consumed,” says the
“The truly good news is that the factors responsible for the current popularity are long
term in nature and will likely become even more powerful in the future.”