Change brews for the Great British Cuppa

Soaring global demand, climate change, more speciality teas – it can only mean prices will go up

Most people think that, in an uncertain world, the one true constant is the reassuring Great British Cuppa. They would be wrong. In the future, our brew, our Rosie Lee, will be more expensive, increasingly imported from Africa, and picked not by hand but by machines.

These are the predictions for Britain's favourite drink in the coming decades by some of the biggest names in the tea industry. An explosion in luxury speciality teas is also forecast, with the traditional builders' brew being passed over for the finest Lapsang Souchong by younger tea drinkers.

Last month, two of the world's biggest tea manufacturers, Unilever, which owns PG Tips, and Tetley's parent company Tata, met with a string of other firms and organisations to discuss how the world of tea is changing and the potential threats facing it. During this global collaboration, dubbed the Tea 2030 project, it emerged that British consumers could soon see the price of their cuppa rise.

Experts say one of the developments threatening to push up the cost is the demand from Middle Eastern countries which are willing to pay more than Britain for tea imports. The majority of British tea now comes from east Africa – a trend which is expected to grow. This contrasts to the 1950s when 80 per cent came from India and Sri Lanka.

In 2011, both Pakistan and Egypt overtook Britain as Kenya's biggest tea markets, consuming around 80,000 tonnes each in that year alone. The chairman of the International Tea Committee, Mike Bunston, warned that, if demand from the new markets increases to a level which tea suppliers struggle to meet, then prices will go up. He said: "We've reached the situation where the world demand for tea has increased so much that the amount of tea being produced and the amount of tea being consumed is almost identical. There is a very fine balance. So if that tips, then the price of tea will go up."

The impact of climate change on tea crops is another threat that could result in Brits having to pay more from their tea. Ian Brabbin, head buyer at Yorkshire Tea, said: "What we will see is more volatility in the market. Ten or 20 years ago, weather patterns were much more predictable and you could predict how much each country was going to produce." And Dr Sally Uren, from the think tank Forum for the Future, which organised Tea 2030, said: "Extreme weather events are going to become more usual, so I would say that one certainty is that the price of tea will go up. But whether it will go up beyond people's reach – I doubt that very much."

Mr Brabbin said the competition for the best varieties is also expected to become fiercer, with tea producers in India and China now preferring to sell to their own populations rather than export it. There is also a fear that the quality of some tea supplies may drop with the rise in mechanically rather than hand-picked tea leaves. Sarah Roberts, from the Ethical Tea Partnership, said: "Latin America is almost entirely mechanised now." Industry insiders also predict that the humble teabag may see itself increasingly pushed aside in favour of speciality teas, whose popularity is increasing at the rate of 7 per cent a year, particularly among young consumers.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
The spider makes its break for freedom
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot