COULD drinking less tea really help a nation’s economy? It’s a plan of action in Pakistan.


How so?

The country's planning minister has asked tea drinkers to cut down on the number of cups they are having each day due to the rising import costs he said are draining the nation's foreign currency reserves. Ahsan Iqbal said: “I appeal to the nation to cut down the consumption of tea by one to two cups because we also borrow money for the tea, which is imported.”


What does he mean?

Pakistan is among the biggest tea importers in the world, with the beverage remaining a hugely popular drink among both the rich and the poor in the 220 million strong country down through the generations.


Tea time!

Each Pakistani is believed to consume at least three cups of tea a day on average, making a cuppa the nation’s most popular drink. As a result, the government spends about $600 million from its central bank’s hard currency reserves for tea imports each year. According to data from Reuters, the country's foreign currency reserves have plunged from $16.3 billion at February’s end to $10 billion in May.



Tea is the second most consumed drink in the world, after water. In 2020, global consumption of tea amounted to about 6.3 billion kilograms and is estimated to reach to 7.4 billion kilograms by 2025. Worldwide, 3.7 billion cups of tea are consumed on a daily basis. In 2021, 297 billion litres of tea were drunk worldwide


The Queen?

As epitomised by her Platinum Jubilee clip featuring her having tea with Paddington Bear, the Queen loves a cup of tea. In fact, former butler to the Queen, Grant Harrold, revealed how the Queen enjoys her tea ahead, saying ahead of the celebrations earlier this month: "Pour the tea into the cup from a teapot, add milk to the cup after the tea and never before, stir back and forth (never use a circular motion and never touch the sides), Lastly, you should always sip from the cup and never slurp."


In Pakistan?

The reaction has not been enthusiastic from tea fans, furious at Iqbal's request - he replaced Imran Khan in April after the ex-cricketer was ousted from his role as PM. Hameed Khan, a journalist and social commentator from the northern city of Peshawar, told NBC News in the US: “The problem is Pakistani elites will impose heavy taxes on the masses and snatch our cup of tea, but they will never leave their lavish life.” Dil Sher, who owns a tea stall in Islamabad told the Al Jazeera network: “Yesterday Ahsan Iqbal asked us to consume less tea and tomorrow they may say eat less. Is it a solution?”


It comes as…?

Pakistan has been in political turmoil and economic freefall for months, with foreign currency fragile economy. A killer heat wave added to the challenges as temperatures reached as high as 124 degrees Fahrenheit last month, impacting industry and food production. 


Tea is historic?

It is certainly tied up in the history of the country and while tea itself dates to China - said to have originated thousands of years BC when Emperor Shen Nung found leaves had fallen into his pot of boiling water and regarded the brew created to be beguiling - the history of tea in Pakistan is rich, interwoven with the the history of British tea through colonial times.


In Pakistan?

Tea is called chai, with both black and green teas popular and known locally as sabz chai and Kahwah, respectively.