International Tea Day & Economics

Last month the United Nations General Assembly voted to designate May 21 as International Tea Day.

While International Tea Day has graced the calendars of tea lovers globally for years, we have always recognized it as a December “holiday”. According to World Tea News, the UNGA has been petitioned for a few years to move the day from December to May, when most tea producing countries are in the throes of processing the finest tea they will produce all year with leaves from the spring growing season.

One of the hopes in changing the date is that more emphasis can be placed on the growers. For a long time there has been a global push on fair trade items and a concerted effort to help make consumers aware of the conditions under which their favorite products are created. The tea industry is no different. With efforts to “know your farmers” coming along side an increased desire to purchase ethically sourced and sustainable tea, a change in focus with the date of International Tea Day feels only natural.

While the vote was overwhelmingly approved, I couldn’t help notice that three countries cast a vote of “no”.

Initially I was shocked to see my country, the United States, on the nay list. However, in seeing Australia and Israel also cast votes against the resolution, I understand the move.

For Israel, I believe the decline comes from a religious perspective, as a national and Jewish holiday begins at sundown on May 21. And being a strong ally of Israel, the United States voted no for political purposes.

Politics aside, I believe this vote also shows the US’s lack of understanding of tea and the impact it has on our economy. While the tea industry is still in the beginning stages of regrowth, the US is no stranger to the brew and we would be best to remember our roots.

Our country began to truly take a stand at what has become remembered as The Boston Tea Party, where colonists dressed as Native Americans tossed tea into the harbor. Why? Because their beloved tea was taxed in a manner in which was not proportionate to nationals living in England. And why was the tea taxed so heavily? Because it was one of the most demanded imports.

I would argue that tea still is being heavily imported into the US. If it wasn’t, it would have never been on the list of goods requiring 20% tariff in the trade war between the US and China last year.

Whoever voted on behalf of the United States very well may have chosen to vote the way they did to show a strong political alliance with Israel. Sadly, their vote also showed just how ignorant they are to the cost of tea in the United States and the rapidly increasing demand of specialty tea. Over time, we tea lovers will change economies – and the world – through focusing on the plant, the grower, and all the hands involved, and by taking steps to improve the entire process. One cup at a time.

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