China’s Sustainable Secret

Tea farm landscape in Jiangxi, China. Photo by: Kenny001 /

Let’s face it: China gets a lot of press in the United States – from Trump-Xi political relations to trade wars and more. But there’s a quieter and valuable fact that you don’t often hear. China is a leader in sustainable and organic tea production.

The “secret” facts about the sustainable Chinese tea industry include:

  • China is the world’s largest tea exporter
  • Half of Fair Trade tea in the United States is from China
  • More than 50 percent of USDA Organic tea in the United States comes from China

China’s drive toward increased sustainability comes from both internal and external pressures. Importing countries like the United States and Morocco (Morocco takes one fifth of all Chinese tea exports) expect healthier teas with lower pesticide levels that are better for the environment. Consumers in the United States increasingly desire products that are more sustainable, and they’re prepared to pay for them.

Graph: Courtesy of Firsd Tea North America
Graph: Courtesy of Firsd Tea North America

At the same time, China’s sustainable tea aligns with their domestic goals for ecological improvement and poverty reduction. Sustainable teas in China correspond with U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and China’s own internal goals for economic, social and environmental development.

China’s gains in sustainability align with growing U.S. demand for sustainable teas. U.S. consumers are seeking more sustainability – 48 percent are looking to change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment, and 90 percent of Millennials are willing to pay more for products with environmentally friendly ingredients.

Sustainable teas are also associated with a healthier lifestyle. The sustainability mindset includes:

  • Economic development for tea workers
  • Environmental protection
  • Social responsibility

Sustainable teas are feel-good teas that shoppers are seeking, and these shoppers are willing to pay more to get. For many consumers, a fuller concept of wellness incorporates health benefits and a better life not just for the drinker, but for all those involved in the tea’s life cycle. China plays a critical role in these sustainable, good-for-us-all teas.

In light of these hidden facts, any serious discussion of sustainable teas in the United States should include Chinese teas and their role in the tea market. Telling the story of how U.S. tea businesses deliver sustainable Chinese teas is important because it is:

  • Morally Right – It’s the right approach for our Earth and future generations.
  • Good Economics – Sustainable tea continues to be an economic driver for millions living in poverty.
  • Smart Business – Consumers seek and trust brands committed to sustainability.

The importance of these sustainability stories often gets lost in the buzz of other news headlines, but China sustainability continues to lift lives out of poverty, strengthen the environment, and satisfy tea drinkers across the globe. This is a secret that deserves to be told.

Jason Walker is the marketing director for Firsd Tea North America. Prior to his work with Firsd Tea, Walker served in a variety of roles in tea and beverage business services. His 10 years of tea and beverage business experience includes business services for small tea companies, a top-ranked online destination for tea consumer education, and co-founding a coffee company. Additionally, Walker served in various roles in both public and private education, including college and private education. His insights draw upon his diverse range of experience in sales, operations and management. They’ve enabled him to bring a broader range of solutions and learning to the tea world. To learn more about Firsd Tea, visit