All that glisters…

Following the guest post on my blog, I wanted to have a little more quantitative approach to the evolution of the American tea market.

So I looked for data from some sources and found something quite interesting at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO): all the tea imports between 1986 and 2011 for 5 countries (Canada, France, Germany, UK, USA).

Why these countries? To compare things between countries that are perceived as similar in terms of consumption but not in terms of history and relationships to the tea.

I reworked the stats a little (for example starting in 1991 to get the same data from all these countries) and here are the first results.

041 - 5 countries

The USA imports more and more tea (43,000 tons more or over +50% in 21 years) whereas these tea imports drops in the United Kingdom (-13% but only a little over 23,000 tons less).

Even if their tea imports increased overtime, the 3 other countries I selected don’t play in the same league. With a little under 55,000 tons imported each year, Germany plays in the second league while with under 20,000 tons each year, Canada and France are obviously in the third one but all of them share something with the USA: the increase over the years ranging from +38% (France), +44% (Canada), +118% (Germany).

From this first analysis, we can conclude that the USA is a big tea importer and that if everything goes well for them, it could really soon beat their only rival, the United Kingdom.

The next question is what they make with all this tea.

And to know the answer (or a part of it), the question is where does all this tea comes from?

Below is a map that shows every country that exported tea to the USA even once between 1991 and 2011.

041 - US tea imports

Seeing some rather exotic countries in the list like Greenland or some other small one is the joy of statistics on international trade.

This problem coupled with the low frequency of some of these trades doesn’t help us a lot. So I decided to eliminate those who had traded for less than 10 years over the period 1991-2011.

041 - US tea imports 10 years

This map is a little more interesting but displays the countries where some companies are located or countries that re exported tea to the USA.

When focusing on those with an average export level of more than 1,000 tons per year, only a few countries are left with two kinds of countries: those re exporting what they brought (Great Britain and Germany) and those exporting directly.

041 - US tea imports 10000 tons

These 11 countries exported in 2011 118,260 tons to the USA with Argentina being the first (50,034 tons) followed by China (26,335 tons) and India (12,564 tons).

What can we deduce from these elements?

Probably something that you all know that in spite or because of their huge imports, people in the USA (as a whole) do not drink high quality tea (I read that Argentinian tea was mostly used for bags and iced teas).

This is not a scoop but I suspect that there is a trend under this for higher/more exotic teas that could really change the way tea is perceived/drunk.

This will probably the next step in my analysis: find some value statistics and try to link them to those I already collected so that I can get a complete overview.


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