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International Tea Day

More people drink tea than any other beverage besides water. Made from the Camellia sinensis plant, tea comes in a number of varieties: different oxidation levels produce white, green, oolong, or black tea, and different techniques of fermentation produce other unique tea varieties. Tea has a number of health benefits—it is anti-inflammatory, contains antioxidants, and assists with weight loss. Tea also holds cultural significance in many parts of the world.

Tea provides jobs in many remote and economically disadvantaged areas. China, India, Kenya, and Sri Lanka are the largest tea-producing countries. Tea production and processing is the main source of income for millions of families there and in other developing countries and is a main source of import and export revenue there. Tea helps with rural development, reduction of poverty, and food security. Tea production and processing contribute to the United Nations' goals of reduction of extreme poverty, fighting hunger, empowering women, and the sustainable use of ecosystems.

Although tea consumption has grown globally in the first decades of the twenty-first century, per-capita consumption still is low. After the Intergovernmental Group on Tea called for expanding the demand for tea, especially in the countries where it is produced, where demand is relatively low, and for addressing the declining consumption in countries historically known to import tea, the United Nations General Assembly designated May 21 as International Tea Day, with a resolution adopted on December 19, 2019.

International Tea Day promotes and fosters "collective actions to implement activities in favor of the sustainable production and consumption of tea and raise awareness of its importance in fighting hunger and poverty." According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, which leads the celebration each year, "International Tea Day is an opportunity to celebrate the cultural heritage, health benefits and economic importance of tea, while working to make its production sustainable 'from field to cup' ensuring its benefits for people, cultures and the environment continue for generations." They go on to say that "the celebration promotes the sustainable production, consumption and trade of tea, and offers an opportunity for actors at global, regional and national levels to ensure that the tea sector continues to play a role in reducing extreme poverty, fighting hunger and safeguarding natural resources."

The first International Tea Day was virtual on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was opened by the FAO Director-General. Speakers at the ceremony selected tea varieties and talked about their properties while linking them to cultural experiences in the regions the teas are from. The ceremony recognized tea sites that are part of the world's agricultural heritage, and there was an interactive dialogue with representatives from major tea-producing and consuming countries. In-person observations in subsequent years had similar events, including having an opening ceremony led by the FAO Director-General.

How to Observe International Tea Day

Celebrate with tea:

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