Here are three tea facts and my personal resolution.
Question: In the mid-nineteenth century, which country drank the most tea on a per capita basis?
Answer: Surprisingly, Australia. The Brits overtook the Australians during the 1900s, although Aussies remained the second highest consumers of tea per capita globally until the late 1940s. Apparently this Australian tea obsession was to do with cleaving to notions of British civility and impressing social order within the colonial outpost.
Question: Who are the world’s biggest tea drinkers now?
Answer: Turkey. Followed by Ireland and the UK.
Question: So who profits from our tea addiction?
Answer: Categorically, it’s Unilever, which exercises world domination over our tea purchases. In the US it has annual sales of US$418 million – more than twice the size of its closest competitor. In Australia Unilever owns Lan-choo, Liptons, Bushells and even T2! In the UK, PG Tips mean that Unilever’s sales are only a fraction behind that of Tetley.
Chances are wherever in the world you’re drinking tea, it will be a Unilever tea leaf infusing your water. Having now digested that fact, I’ve resolved to seek out and buy from smaller tea producers. It’s a small protest and not one likely to have seismic repercussions on the stock market, but there is a strong historical precedent for tea-based dissent. Who knows where it could lead.