The consensus seems to be that tea is the second most commonly consumed beverage in the world, after water. The good news for tea lovers, tea producers, and anyone else who stands to benefit from this sort of thing is that the world’s tea drinkers have taken to downing more of the stuff. That’s official, by the way, if we’re to believe the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), who recently weighed in on the matter.

A glass of cold tea — as good as a glass of water!

A glass of cold tea — as good as a glass of water!

As the FAO’s Intergovernmental Group on Tea reported, total world tea consumption in 2010 was four million tonnes, which is an increase of 5.6 percent from the previous year. Production of black tea increased by 5.5 percent and that of green tea increased by 1.9 percent. The fact that demand for the former has been higher than the supply has resulted in higher prices for black tea and presumably in happier tea growers all around.

The FAO attributed the increase to higher income levels in China, India and other countries with emerging economies. Historically neither China nor India, the world’s top tea producers, have not been in the top 30 of tea consumers, on a per capita basis, but because of their large populations they rank high in total amounts consumed. The FAO report indicated that total consumption in China increased 8.2 percent in 2009, and 1.4 percent in 2010 and in India by 2.4 percent in 2009 and 1 percent in 2010. For more on the world’s top tea drinkers, as measured on a per capita basis, look here (give yourself a pat on the back and two gold stars if you guess the top ranked country before clicking).

For the future the FAO group predicts that black tea production will continue to grow at just under two percent annually for about the next decade. Overall tea consumption is also expected to grow at nearly the same rate during that period. Green tea production (and presumably consumption) will grow significantly more than black tea in that period, with much of that growth coming in the tea growing powerhouse of China.

For a summary of the FAO report, look here. For more detailed documents from the group’s recent session in Sri Lanka, look here.

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