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How Much Tea Does Pakistan Drink?

Posted on June 3, 2007
Filed Under >Owais Mughal, Economy & Development, Food, Health & Disease
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Owais Mughal

Answer is US $220 million worth of it. Yes, it is true. Pakistan imported this much worth of tea in fiscal year 2006.

While years ago tea drinking used to be a fashionable habit, it is now our national habit, addiction and part of our evolutionary culture. Part of our culture in a sense that guests are now offered tea as a minimum. Guests also expect a cup of tea as a minimum when they visit somebody. The cultural fusion of tea in our daily lives is so complete that I recently had to bear a beautiful wedding song sacrifced to our tea habit. The real song goes like this:

banno teray abba ki ooNchi haveli
banno meiN DhooNDta chala aaya

but during a song competition, groom’s side plagiarized the song to:

banno teray abba ka chai ka khokha
banno meiN khaulta chala aaya

If you go to any Pakistani commercial bazaar (market), you will notice that all shopkeepers drink tea en-masse atleast twice daily. There is a whole institution in place where cups full of tea are distributed in the whole market and then collected later on. Tea is even offered on credit. One can choose from a variety of payment plans like ‘pay as you go’, pay weekly or monthly. Tea is also offered to prospective ‘gaahak’ (buyer) by the shopkeeper to show how sincere he/she is in upcoming transaction.

The $220 million amount seemed astronomical to me and it shocked me for few seconds and that is what prompted me to write these lines. Good or bad I don’t know because I myself contribute roughly $100 a year to this fashion. What to hide from you, I am sipping on a cup of tea even while writing these very lines. But after reading this number, I feel as if there is a brewing storm in my tea cup.

Fountain of Youth?

But then all is not bad about tea. Tea contains antioxidants which are good for us. One of my good friends who recently did research on tea tells me that during digestion of food besides energy for our daily activities, high energy free oxygen radicals are also produced. These highly mobile particles hit DNA in the cells, thus causing severe damage to DNA. This in turn could lead to defects in DNA which is the primary cause of cancer.  Antioxidants found in tea neutralize free Oxygen radicals thus minimizing damage to DNA and hence cancer.

A recent research published in a leading journal “Nature” shows that DNA damage can also lead to premature aging in humans, in addition to cancer. Therefore, each time when you sip from your cup of tea, think like you are sipping from fountain of youth.

There are reports that Government of Pakistan is now awakening to this massive demand of a massive population of 160 million Pakistanis. There are reports of a plan to grow tea locally in Pakistan on 4000 acres. This will be done in private sector. Semi Government sectors will also chip in by growing tea at 800 acres in NWFP, 200 acres in AJK and 50 acres in FATA. This will still be like putting ‘ooNT ke muNh meiN zeera’ (a single cumin seed in a camel’s mouth) but better than nothing.

There is another angle to this national addiction. It gives Pakistan a teeny-tiny leverage in World trade. I’ve read in news that when India and Pakistan were in serious trade negotiations in 2004, then of all the people, it made Government of Kenya very nervous. Kenya gets a big share of our US $220 million up-for-grabs money and they were probably wary of losing its share to India’s Assamese and Darjeeling produced black tea.

I personally like Darjeeling black tea over Kenyan brands but then who am I to decide about World trade. I’ll end the post with this plagiarized sher:

“chai” se gharz-e-nishaat hai kis rosiaah ko

ik gona-e-be-khudi mujhay har dum chahiyay

Pakistan’s National Tea Research Institute:

Pakistan has established a National Tea Research Institute in Mansehra which works under Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC). The institute has a tea garden spread on 33 acres. Mansehra was chosen for tea research because of its hilly location with lots of rainfall. The web page of this tea research institute is here. 

References:

(1) Photos for this post have been taken from flickr.com. Clicking on the photos will take you to their source website.
(2) Source of some of the information for this post is from here.

Previos ATP post on ‘chai’ (tea): Chai Chahiyay

37 Comments on “How Much Tea Does Pakistan Drink?”

  1. LB says:
    June 3rd, 2007 1:04 am

    Good. I love tea. Coffee is cool but tea is hot!! Nothing like a cup of KaRaK Cha from the driver hotels along the G.T. Road. So when will this Pakistani Tea be available for tea junkies like me?
    But it must be expensive still.Its a pity our ‘white beer’ aka Lassie didnt get this popular, although its less expensive and more apropriate for a hot country like Pakistan. Is it something to do with the absence of caffeine in lassie or its color which led to this discrimination?
    Why dont we think of a cheaper alternative to tea for our people. Maybe caffeine coated popcorns. Sweet for hypertensive people and salty for diabetics? or maybe more traditional papadoms or paapaR, where you dont need teeth as well. But then you cant drink either of them!

  2. Moeen Bhatti says:
    June 3rd, 2007 1:31 am

    Its good to see a post about tea after the talk about our electronic media. I guess we all need a nice cup of tea, preferably from a desi dhaba/driver hotel on GT road, and think in which direction Pakistan is going? When will we wake up and revolt????

  3. beenum says:
    June 3rd, 2007 3:41 am

    excuse me ppl every nation have a habit ours is to drink tea atleast better then drinking alcohol though thts beyond point the point is sum nations drink coffee we drink tea to keep us going:)

  4. Eidee Man says:
    June 3rd, 2007 5:04 am

    good article…I remember when Nawaz Sharif started his second term there was a PTV special asking Pakistanis to drink less tea…now that’s cruelty.

    Although most people my age do not drink tea, I’m glad I’m as addicted and non-functional without tea as any warm-blooded Pakistani should be.

  5. Ahmad R. Shahid says:
    June 3rd, 2007 5:49 am

    The famous opium wars started in China around the 1860s due to the Chinese addiction for opium. The reason was simple. The Chinese started consuming too much opium, which China had to import. China used silver to buy opium. With too much addiction of opium Chinese silver reserves started declining. As a result silver became quite rarer and more expensive than the Chinese currency, as a result the farmers’ buying power reduced considerably and they got dis-enchanted. That ultimatley resulted in the opium war.

    Though consumption of tea, by above accounts, of 220 million dollars, is not too much to worry about yet it could go out of control.

    Also another habit of Pakistanis in general, taking too much sugar, also caused General Ayub to go and created troubles for General Musharraf. We on average consume almost as much sugar as an average American, despite the difference in buying power. 25kg per capita per annum for us, 30-35 for the US.

    When such a large nation as Pakistan, with 160 million souls, start consuming something out of the ordinary then it is bound to have effect on the international market. Thus Kenya’s concerns are quite justified.

    But I find the idea of home-grown tea quite ludicrous. For years we have been trying to do things we are not naturally geared towards doing, like the industrialization. We should do what we can do best rather than what we “should”. If our soil doesn’t support the growth of tea then it would be very expensive to grow local tea and the land that is good for growing other cash crops, such as sugar cane, would be used to grow something that is natural to it. We would only be wasting our resources.

    The best way is to keep importing tea while producing other things and selling them to get dollars to buy tea in the international market.

  6. tina says:
    June 3rd, 2007 11:44 am

    Chai is great and is even beginning to catch on in the States, where most coffee shops now offer “hot or iced Chai”; it tastes like crap of course, but its interesting that the Ami version is becoming a popular drink. Tea brewing is an art however and American coffee shops cannot be expected to “get it right” esp. given their approach to food preparation and consumption.

    I have heard before about the new attempts to get tea plantations growing in Pakistan, all I can say is that coffee and tea are not indigenous to Kenya either, but Kenya is now a big exporter of both of these. If the hilly regions can support tea, then why not try it.

  7. Sridhar says:
    June 3rd, 2007 3:01 pm

    Usually tea is grown in hilly or rolling terrain, where it is hard to grow other cash crops. Hence, tea plantations will likely not come at the expense of other crops.

    While NWFP has the hills, does it have the climate to support tea cultivation? Typically, tea is grown in cool but humid environments. For instance, the Darjeeling hills and Assam have very high levels of precipitation, as do the regions of Kenya and Sri Lanka that cultivate tea. The same is the case with the regions in South India that grow tea – the Munnar region of Kerala and the Nilgiri hills (near the hill station of Ooty) in Tamil Nadu.

    Interestingly, Bangladesh is the next country that is trying to cultivate tea in significant quantities. It has the climate and some parts of it have the terrain, but until recently, there was not much Government support for the tea industry there. Things are changing now and we might see Bangladesh emerging as the next major tea producer in a few years if things go well.

  8. June 3rd, 2007 3:33 pm

    last winter i developed a taste for green tea and lemon grass, and the way to enjoy that sort of tea properly is to stop at any qehwa khana when travelling btw pindi and peshawar! truck drivers get the best qehwa, lekin then again…apnay haath ki ghar ki chai ki aur baat hai!

    waisay does qehwa qualify as chai?

    Some lyrics of a song i head years back on the radio…heard it once and still remember the lyrics…and yes, i was drinking tea then :D


    Pehlay pani pakkda, haan paani pakkda!
    Fir Patti pakkdi haan patti pakdi!
    Pak pak ke hondi kaali syaa!
    Sab kehnday pak gayee cha cha!

  9. Owais Mughal says:
    June 3rd, 2007 5:09 pm

    Pakistan has established a National Tea Research Institute in Mansehra which works under Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC). The institute has a tea garden spread on 33 acres. Mansehra was chosen for tea research because of its hilly location with lots of rainfall. The web page of this tea research institute is at:

    http://www.parc.gov.pk/ntri.html

  10. Ahmad R. Shahid says:
    June 3rd, 2007 8:30 pm

    [quote comment="51482"]Pakistan has established a National Tea Research Institute in Mansehra which works under Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC). The institute has a tea garden spread on 33 acres. Mansehra was chosen for tea research because of its hilly location with lots of rainfall. The web page of this tea research institute is at:

    http://www.parc.gov.pk/ntri.html/quote

    I don’t really expect much from PARC.

  11. Kruman says:
    June 3rd, 2007 9:05 pm

    When I was 16 a friend of mine told me that he stopped drinking tea after he learnt that Pakistan spends millions of rupees on tea import. On that day, 18 years ago, I gave up tea.

  12. nashus says:
    June 3rd, 2007 10:34 pm

    I believe tea became popular in subcontinent not more than 80 years ago when tea companies offered free samples in cities and villages, their slogan was “Garmi mein garam chai thandak pohchanti hei”. The beverage had milk and sugar.

    China where I have been for last 8 years has a rich tea culture. Tea is given as gifts in New Year. Some tea is more expensive than gold. There are a number of kinds of tea: Green teas, Gasmine tea, Oolong tea, Puer tea, eight treasure tea so on and on. Almost everyone consumes tea carrying a bottle all day in which boiled water is replenished. No milk or sugar in that tea. Now bottled tea is available with a slight sweet taste. Then there are tea candies and green tea ice cream. Since the opening up of China western beverages Coke, Pepsi, Starbucks have invaded China but chinese tea remains the most popular beverage.

    In years I have developed the taste of chinese tea. However, recently while visiting Karachi I visited a friend at his office on II Chudrigar Road in the morning. As I was about to leave at around 10 am he asked me to stay as his tea from city station is about to arrive. Surprised at why should tea come from city station and not served from office canteen he told me to be patient. When the tea finally arrived I must say it had a unique taste which I wont ever forget.

  13. mozang bijjli says:
    June 3rd, 2007 11:36 pm

    No threat and no treat can keep me from my cup a tea.
    must have three steaming mugs at breakfast, a cup of after noon tea, and until recently have developed a habit of brewing a warm cup of tea before going to bed, usually have my lunch and dinner at work and only thing i look forward to at my lonely apartment on return is a cup of tea with a piece of cake or something.
    But the major trouble in my smooth habits is that not a single store here sells a decent belnd of tea, i have tried the most expansive cylone blends and imports from england too but they all tasted too lame as if i have boiled water furriuosly for hours with the minimum of tea leaves in it hoping to get a karak cha on the strength of heat only, Lipton yellow lablel lives up to the expectionations to some exctant but it too is not the real true yellow label sold back home.
    Now i have started campaigning for my tea supplies and the friends coming over from pakistan are good enough to bring me kilo packs of yellow label.
    Now my stocks are replensihed for another six months, and a happy bird flys home each night singing
    yahi to hayyy
    woh apna pan!!

  14. Owais Mughal says:
    June 3rd, 2007 11:45 pm

    Dear Nashus. You provided good insight on Chinese tea. We also covered some word-of-mouth-history of how tea got introduced in sub-continent in one of our earlier posts at:

    http://pakistaniat.com/2006/08/05/guest-post-chai-cha-he-aye/

    The reason Chinese can drink tea without milk or sugar is b/c it is very diluted. There is a mild taste of tea and they keep changing boiled water in it. What sub-continent people drink is a highly concentrated dose :) of multiple tea spoons of ‘patti’ in a kettle. This makes it so bitter that so far I have never dared to drink desi tea without milk/sugar.

  15. Owais Mughal says:
    June 3rd, 2007 11:48 pm

    Sridhar
    Pakistan has no area that comes close to Assam, Darjeeling or Bangladesh-Tripura hills geaography. Mansehra-Abbotabad are the closest but they are still very dry compared to typical hill producing areas of the world. As I have appended my article above, there is a tea research institure set up in Mansehra.

  16. Eidee Man says:
    June 4th, 2007 2:36 am

    [quote comment="51513"]When I was 16 a friend of mine told me that he stopped drinking tea after he learnt that Pakistan spends millions of rupees on tea import. On that day, 18 years ago, I gave up tea.[/quote]

    Pakistan spends much more on oil import…you’re going to give up your transportation?

  17. Eidee Man says:
    June 4th, 2007 2:43 am

    I have office-mates who drink Green Tea with milk! Now, how many of you guys think that that’s absolutely disgusting?

  18. jayjay says:
    June 4th, 2007 7:10 am

    Pakistan has been consistently among the world’s top two or three importers of tea; perhaps the biggest consumer of imported tea and certainly the largest consumer of Kenyan tea. The UK often tops the list for being the largest re-exporting market.

    The actual import bill for tea must be higher than the stated $220 million as a good quantity of the leaf is “importedâ€

  19. Ahmad R. Shahid says:
    June 4th, 2007 9:43 am

    [quote comment="51575"][quote comment="51513"]When I was 16 a friend of mine told me that he stopped drinking tea after he learnt that Pakistan spends millions of rupees on tea import. On that day, 18 years ago, I gave up tea.[/quote]

    Pakistan spends much more on oil import…you’re going to give up your transportation?[/quote]

    Even more on the cell phones. We should be making cell phones rather than growing tea.

  20. Ahmad R. Shahid says:
    June 4th, 2007 9:44 am

    [quote comment="51635"]Pakistan has been consistently among the world’s top two or three importers of tea; perhaps the biggest consumer of imported tea and certainly the largest consumer of Kenyan tea. The UK often tops the list for being the largest re-exporting market.

    The actual import bill for tea must be higher than the stated $220 million as a good quantity of the leaf is “importedâ€

  21. Adnan Ahmad says:
    June 4th, 2007 9:50 am

    I never was a tea person but lately I have taken up tea drinking. I have tried making khokha doodh patti several times but can’t even come close. Basically I mix tea [generally tetly brand] and milk and boil for an extended period. Does any one have any tips?

  22. Eidee Man says:
    June 4th, 2007 2:20 pm

    [quote comment="51666"]I never was a tea person but lately I have taken up tea drinking. I have tried making khokha doodh patti several times but can’t even come close. Basically I mix tea [generally tetly brand] and milk and boil for an extended period. Does any one have any tips?[/quote]

    Well, as far as I know, you have to let the leaves steep. Boil water, put the tea in, turn the heat of after a few seconds, cover and let the leaves steep.

  23. MQ says:
    June 4th, 2007 7:55 pm

    220 million dollars of tea may look a lot in absolute terms. But in the context of total imports (28+ billion dollars for the year 2005-06), it constitutes only 0.7 % while palm oil and sugar make up 2.8 % and 1.8 %, respectively. So, if we must cut down on anything it should be on oil and sugar. Doctors say so, too. On the other hand, tea is said to have some anti-carcinogenic activity. In other words it is good for you.

    Adnan:
    This is how I make my tea in the US: Boil fresh tap water in a kettle. (Do not re-boil any leftover water. Always use fresh, cold water.) When the water comes to a boil, let it boil for 60 seconds. Rinse your cup with the boiling water and then place a teabag in the cup. (I prefer Tetley because its teabags don’t have a staple and thread attached to them.) Pour boiling water over the teabag. Cover the cup with a saucer for at least one minute. This is critical. The more airtight the cover is, the better. While the tea is getting “curedâ€

  24. Owais Mughal says:
    June 4th, 2007 8:22 pm

    My recipe’ for 1 cup of super-tea

    3/4 cups of water
    1/4 cup of half-and-half milk
    2 tea-bags of lipton
    sugar hasb-e-zaiqa
    microwave until almost boiling
    wait for 2 minutes ti let tea bags bring out color, and voila!

  25. June 6th, 2007 12:36 pm

    Not only in matter of tea, but in matters of technology too, pakistan has to become better for it’s own survival. It should also open more trade routes with Iran and Afghanistan.

    Pak has a lot of potential to realize and become more industrialized.

    One more thing that needs to be done is to make the communication throughout Pakistan better, especially between Balochistan and Punjab.

  26. Ahmad R. Shahid says:
    June 6th, 2007 7:40 pm

    [quote comment="51795"]220 million dollars of tea may look a lot in absolute terms. But in the context of total imports (28+ billion dollars for the year 2005-06), it constitutes only 0.7 % while palm oil and sugar make up 2.8 % and 1.8 %, respectively. So, if we must cut down on anything it should be on oil and sugar. Doctors say so, too. On the other hand, tea is said to have some anti-carcinogenic activity. In other words it is good for you.

    Adnan:
    This is how I make my tea in the US: Boil fresh tap water in a kettle. (Do not re-boil any leftover water. Always use fresh, cold water.) When the water comes to a boil, let it boil for 60 seconds. Rinse your cup with the boiling water and then place a teabag in the cup. (I prefer Tetley because its teabags don’t have a staple and thread attached to them.) Pour boiling water over the teabag. Cover the cup with a saucer for at least one minute. This is critical. The more airtight the cover is, the better. While the tea is getting “curedâ€

  27. Boo! says:
    June 11th, 2007 4:07 am

    I’d be interested in finding out the source of your information. I have been looking for an exact figure on Pakistan’s tea imports, and can’t seem to find any official figures. The unofficial figures I’ve seen are close to USD 500 million. So the 220 mln you quote here seems low to me.

    However, I think it is one of our biggest vices. I agree that it is better than other habits but consider the fact that EVEN IF the tea import is only USD 220 million, and the suger imports (whose only purpose is to go into that cup of kadak chai) comine for about 5% to 10% of our budget deficit!

    Can you imagine the budgest deficit could be reduced by THAT much if only the Pakistani people stopped drinking so much tea? not to mention the improved productivity at work (the tea break after every hour or two really doesn’t help anyone!). Just my opinion though…

  28. MQ says:
    June 11th, 2007 7:38 am

    Look up GOP’s Board of Investment’s website at:

    http://www.pakboi.gov.pk/Industry_Data/Pak_imports.html

  29. Owais Mughal says:
    June 11th, 2007 7:49 am

    Boo, I got the $220m number from a news item of Khaleej times. It is listed as above as (2) under the reference heading.

  30. boo! says:
    June 12th, 2007 8:36 am

    thanks guys… and according to the website, our imports actually declined last year! I’m a happy guy right now :)

  31. zahra solat says:
    November 26th, 2007 4:19 pm

    Dear manager,hi
    i am Mrs zahra soalt from IRAN..i have many kinds of tea .i want to know are you interesting to have it?
    please reply to me.
    thanks
    solat

  32. syed ahsanul kabir says:
    March 30th, 2008 1:19 am

    hi
    i m ahsan fm chittagong bangladesh.our company is interested to export tea in pakistan. if u interested then contact bellow address.
    thanks
    syed ahsanul kabir
    manager ( export)
    shashi enterprize
    79, karnafully market
    ctg, bangladesh.
    ahsan.murad@gmail.com
    n.b: our company is auction bidder of bangladesh tea board

  33. Muhammad Abbas says:
    April 4th, 2008 8:28 am

    Answer is US $420million worth of it. Yes, it is true. Pakistan imported this much worth of tea in fiscal year 2008 and 2009
    Abbas Baig from Lahore Pakistan,
    Email:anilabbas@gamil.com
    Cell:+921-300-8004431

  34. laila says:
    July 7th, 2010 2:48 am

    hey,

    i need information regarding Pakistan’s tea bag market.
    also if you have any related case studies can you please email them to me on the above mentioned email address.

    looking forward to your quick response.

  35. laila says:
    July 7th, 2010 2:50 am
  36. Azam shanwari says:
    June 7th, 2011 1:28 pm

    sir need the policy of tea sale.how to sale tea in pakisatani market.and how much we can slae only tea bag and loose tea in pakistan.

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