• By: Dan Donovan

Enjoying Tea, Promoting Cultural Exchange and Mutual Learning, and Striving for Common Development

ABOVE: The Hon Cong Peiwu, Chinese Ambassador to Canada, hosted an event celebrating Intenational Tea Day.

By CONG PEIWU, Chinese Ambassador to Canada

In December 2019, the United Nations approved designating May 21st as International Tea Day, a proposal from China to give tea lovers around the world an annual special day to celebrate their passion for the beverage.

Tea is an essential part of daily life. With a history of thousands of years, tea is one of the world’s three major non-alcoholic beverages. In China, it is the most popular drink and the story of tea drinking goes back over 4,700 years. It is a common custom in Chinese culture to serve the best tea to guests.

Tea is an important cash crop. It is grown in 61 countries and regions across five continents, with a global production value of $17 billion and an output of about 6.5 million tons in 2021. China, which accounted for 47 percent of the global tea production, is home to hundreds of tea varieties. Tea is the main source of employment and income for millions of smallholder farmers, carrying significant importance in increasing farmers’ income, reducing extreme poverty, and eliminating hunger.

Tea is a symbol of cultural exchange among countries. In 2021, the trade volume of tea across the globe reached 1.8 million tons, with a trade value of $9.5 billion. Over 2000 years ago, China opened the Silk Road to the West, starting the trade of commodities such as tea and ceramics. In the early 15th century, Zheng He, the notable Chinese navigator of the Ming Dynasty, led seven voyages to the Western Seas, further promoting the tea trade and helping different countries shape their own tea cultures. In the last ten years, with the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, the tea trade between China and the world has increased.

Tea has both artistic and cultural value. Tea from different parts of the world has its own unique charm and culture because of its varieties, processing techniques, brewing methods, and drinking habits. “Chinese traditional tea processing techniques and their associated social practices” was included in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Tea is also included among the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) recognized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The Pu'er Traditional Tea Agrosystem of southwest China's Yunnan Province and the Jasmine and Tea Culture System of Fuzhou City in southeast China have been selected for this honour.

In March this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the Global Civilization Initiative, emphasizing that all countries should promote the prosperity and progress of civilization with an attitude of equality, openness, and inclusiveness.

Just like enjoying tea, let us embrace the spirit of harmony among diversity, mutual respect, and mutual learning to advance the common interests of all.