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There's a Worldwide Shortage of This Beloved Hot Beverage

More than half of Americans drink it daily.
tea cup

We've dealt with shortages of staples like meat, toilet paper, and even coins this year. And just as we've recovered from those, we may start to notice supplies of another beloved staple dwindling too, thanks to all the ways this pandemic has messed with our global food supply. According to The Wall Street Journal, a worldwide shortage of tea leaves is currently threatening millions of peoples' cozy habit of reaching for their daily cup. (For more on food and beverage shortages, check out 8 Grocery Items That May Soon Be in Short Supply.)

Tea is consumed in larger amounts than any other beverage in the world (besides water), and this has been even more so during the pandemic, when many of us have been working from home and generally spending more time isolated.

Other factors contributing to the shortages and subsequent price increases are climate-related factors in countries that are biggest tea producers, like India and China, as well as logistical hiccups in the global supply chain caused by the pandemic.

Back in March, tea producers were dealing with the opposite problem—an oversupply of loose tea leaves that were bringing the prices down. But since March, wholesale prices have jumped by 50%, which translates to average prices for consumers increasing by 9.6% for liquid tea concentrate and 1.7% for tea bags, according to market research firm Nielsen. However, prices of ready-to-drink bottled teas have remained stable.

In the United States, more than half of the population drinks tea daily, which means it takes at least 150 million cups of tea to feed our habit. (Check out What Happens to Your Body If You Drink Tea Every Day.) Black tea is particularly popular, as it replaces coffee for millions of health-conscious consumers, especially millennials. Because the pandemic has severely impacted our breakfast habits, we now buy more tea at the grocery store instead of ordering it on the go at coffee shops and drive-thrus.

The Wall Street Journal states some industry analysts are optimistic that the shortage is short-lived as tea production starts to get back on track in countries like Sri Lanka and Kenya, which are also responsible for a large portion of the global tea production. And with an increased production, prices should start leveling off too.

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Mura Dominko
Mura Dominko is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!. Read more
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