Tea facts that surprise and discomfit

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.


This is a site about books and about tea, and how we should read more books and drink more tea. Sometimes, it's hard to know what books to read and what tea to drink. This is where I can help out.


  1. Wow, I would never have thought that Turkey drank the most tea. I’ve never thought about who profits from us buying tea. I normally buy Twinnings tea because I like the taste. I think this is owned by Associated British Foods.

  2. I think Twinnings is a pretty good choice, but you could also check out Jenier, a Scottish tea company (I did a post on them last year).

  3. I am pretty sure I account for the majority of the teas sold in the USA………luckily I have a dealer of loose leaf teas that sells cheaply. Oh dear, that sounded bad didn’t it? a dealer? shoot! you know what I mean (I hope)

  4. Quite informative friend!
    I like it!
    Much love

  5. I guess we’re lucky in Portland, we have several local sources. I don’t remember the last time I drank Lipton.

    • There does appear to be a real burgeoning cottage tea industry (if you can call it that). There are lots of small enterprises around Melbourne, often with a really creative take on tea.

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