When most people think about where tea comes from, they likely think of China or India. It makes sense, given that they are the world’s top two tea producers, making more than three million tons per year!
But it might be surprising to know that the third largest tea producer in the world is Kenya. From the mint teas of Morocco to the black teas of East African countries, there is a long and rich history of cultivating tea in Africa.
Dating back to the 1400s, Africans have used tea in a number of social settings and in everyday life. The colonial period saw a significant increase in production as a way to break China’s tea monopoly. And while we don’t want to glorify colonialism, it’s impossible to understand why tea from Africa is so important to us without recognizing its full history.
Today, Africa exports approximately $1.5 billion worth of tea annually, with the majority coming from Kenya. Africa supplies about 37 percent of the global tea exports, though its share of global production is about 12 percent. By contrast, both China and India consume the majority of tea produced in those countries. For these reasons, tea is an incredibly important crop for African farmers.
At Cured Leaves Tea, our mission is to both connect people more to themselves and to the world around them. That’s why we believe it’s essential to help our customers understand our products’ origins. By sourcing teas from Africa—primarily from women-owned and family-owned businesses—we seek to connect our customers to the lives they are influencing when they drink our teas. Our belief is that creating these connections develops a better sense of our connection to each other as humans and a deeper sense of community.
Best of all, the more tea we drink, the more we are promoting sustainable, women-driven economies. This is essential, particularly in parts of the world where women lack financial independence.
But it’s not only about connecting to others externally and lifting them up. We believe that drinking tea is also about reconnecting with our inner selves. As a Black American owned business, we can take that another layer deeper with drinking African sourced tea as symbolically reconnecting us to our ancestral roots. Our belief is that, while our cultural history and the history of tea are deeply intertwined with slavery, colonization, and exploitation, consuming African teas today enables us to better understand the journey Africans have traveled over the centuries to be resources throughout history and still today.
For us, this means being mindful of ourselves, facing the anger and anguish of the cultural history we were born into, and moving beyond it. That is one reason we believe tea and meditation go hand in hand. By confronting the past in a mindful way, we can envision a future that is free of the shackles of the past. By supporting women-owned tea producers, we are connecting our own history to theirs, while making an economic and social impact on the other side of the world. By engaging all our senses, we can gain a better sense of ourselves and that vital connection to the Earth and the people who work it.