The United Nations General Assembly has designated May 21, 2020 International Tea Day.
The announcement follows years of procedural patience as the Food and Agricultural Organization’s Intergovernmental Group on Tea (IGG) brought to fruition a recommendation formally proposed in 2015.
Marketers, seeking to enhance holiday tea sales, currently celebrate International Tea Day on December 15, a date that is out-of-sync with traditional spring celebrations. Joydeep Phukan, principal officer and secretary of the Tea Research Association at Tocklai in Jorhat, India, explained that modern efforts to establish an international tea day began in 2005 when the Centre for Education and Communication (CEC) hosted a conference in New Delhi culminating in the designation of Dec. 15 as International Tea Day.
“The key objective of the conference was to frame a universal declaration on the rights of the tea workers and small growers in order to strengthen advocacy and campaign activities at various levels,” according to CEC Executive Director J. John. The conference was jointly hosted by the Central Trade Unions of India with the Institute of Social Development (ISD) in Kandy, Sri Lanka and supported by many non-governmental organizations.
Several countries followed the precedent including Bangladesh, Indonesia, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Malawi, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda, and Vietnam.
The UK took a different approach, celebrating the drinking of tea on April 21 in tea rooms, hotels, pubs and cafés through special events, and charitable fundraising events held across the country. Over time the Dec. 15 celebrations evolved to promote holiday blends, seasonal drink recipes, and retail gifting opportunities. In short, the event became more about profits and packaging than those who made the tea within.
Phukan wrote that celebrating tea in May is more suitable because “in most tea producing countries, it is the month of quality tea production.”
“Events could be organized around International Tea Day to spread awareness of the goodness of tea with fresh quality tea produced in the month. In India the second flush, which is the best quality tea production period, starts from around 15th May,” according to Phukan.
Phukan, coordinator of the FAO Intergovernmental Group on Tea (IGG) for India, recalled the FAO’s Milan intersession in October 2015. “I proposed to Santosh Sarangi, chairman, Tea Board of India that India should move a formal proposal on observing one day in a year as International Tea Day,” said Phukan. “Mr. Sarangi asked me to take the opinion of the fellow delegates and when all agreed, India proposed that the UN designate an International Tea Day to spread awareness of the benefits of the tea as a beverage which in turn will also promote tea consumption globally.
Most tea producing countries, including Sri Lanka and Indonesia, wrote to the FAO supporting the proposal which advanced to a formal motion in 2016.
Thereafter China followed up the proposal strongly with the FAO and in the 23rd session of the IGG held at Hangzhou in May 2018, it was decided to observe International Tea Day on the 21st of May.
“All countries especially China, Canada and the FAO Secretariat (Mr. Kaison Chang, Mr. El Mamoun Amrouk, Ms. Margaret Brattloff) deserve full credit in making ITD a reality,” he wrote.
The UN’s 74th Generally Assembly symbolically returned the global celebration of tea. Now it is time for all tea producing and consuming countries to take full advantage of the day.
“Tea can play a significant role in rural development, poverty reduction and ensuring food security in developing countries because of it being one of the most important cash crops,” according to the U.N.
Tea production and processing contribute to the fight against hunger, reduction of extreme poverty, empowerment of women and sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems. Tea consumption can bring health benefits and wellness, among others, according to the U.N. which urged member countries to celebrate the day in an “appropriate manner” in accordance with each nation’s priorities, through education and activities aimed at raising public awareness of the importance of tea.
Planning is now underway in several countries with announcements of individual programs to follow, said Phukan.
“I am happy that my suggestion to observe one day of a year as International Tea Day has seen the light of the day and sincerely hope that more people of the world can discover the goodness of tea,” wrote Phukan.
Reporter Pullock Dutta, in Assam, contributed to this report.
Source: Tea Research Association, Tea Board of India