Tea Yields Compared


This was prompted by Aseem, a reader who asked about tea yields in response to a previous post about tea production.

Here are some interesting stats I found regarding the differences in tea yields in a few countries. I’m comparing 2002, 2003 and 2004 in India, China and Kenya. Unfortunately calendar year 2004 is the most recent year with data available.

Area Under Tea Cultivation (in Hectares)

Year 2002 2003 2004
India 515,832 519,598 521,403
China (Mainland) 1,134,200 1,207,300 1,262,310
Kenya 139,976 131,419 131,418

Interesting points:

  • The land available for tea cultivation in India and China continued to increase during this period, but in Kenya it continued to decrease.
  • This is probably because of crop failure due to devastating drought conditions in Kenya, coupled with tea union strikes.

Average Yield per Hectare (in Kilos)

Year 2002 2003 2004
India 1,625 1,690 1,713
China (Mainland) 657 636 662
Kenya 2,051 2,235 2,470

Interesting points:

  • Note that Kenya has by far the highest yield (among these 3 countries), followed by India and China.
  • One of the primary reasons for Kenya’s high yield is that it produces much of its tea from clonal varieties of the tea plant through vegetative propagation, rather than seeds.
  • Clonal tea production in general produces better yields because the cloned plants are more resistant to disease and other natural factors like drought.
  • India continues to increase clonal tea production, with the establishment of many nurseries throughout Darjeeling, the Nilgiris and Assam.
  • In China, the density of clonal tea is approximately 16%, far below other countries which probably explains part of it’s lower productivity. Increasing labor costs are another issue.
  • As far as the steps China is taking to improve productivity, I believe developing effective cloning programs are a huge part of the strategy.

I’m going to write a new post about cloning soon. The whole idea behind cloning is quite fascinating, so stay tuned.

Data Source: “Tea Statistics 2005”, by J. Thomas & Company Private Limited. J.Thomas was founded in 1861, and has a long history, spanning over two hundred and fifty years. Responsible for conducting the first Indian tea auction in 1861, the company is the single largest tea auctioneer in the world, handling over 155 M.Kgs of tea annually.

By the way, 1 hectare = 2.47105381 acres


12 Responses to “Tea Yields Compared”

  1. Very interesting statistics and points! I look forward to reading your post on clonals. The one question I have about clonals is whether or not there is any taste and quality difference if compared to non-clonals.

    Drawing from my shallow wine knowledge, pinot noir is one of the most cloned varieties. They (the wine industry) keep track and name each pinot noir clone, and each clone has a different profile such as climate preference, specific disease resistance, skin thickness, etc…down to taste and aromas, too.

    So it would be interesting to learn about how cloning affects tea plants.

    As a side note, you wrote:

    “Clonal tea production in general produces better yields because the plants are less resistant to disease and other natural factors.”

    Did you mean “…because the plants are *more* resistant to disease…?” Just wondering.

  2. Hi Phyll,

    I’m so glad I have at least one astute reader. Yes, I did mean *more*, and I’ve made the change in the post. Thank you for pointing that out. 🙂

    Interesting about pinot. Is there some global wine industry association that actually tracks clone names worldwide? If so, that’s quite remarkable.

    Tea clones are also named, though I think the naming occurs on a regional basis. I doubt if the tea industry is organized enough to actually track each clone effectively (I could be wrong). When talking to planters or managers of tea gardens, we often hear about obscure names like “TRI-2025” or “TD-1”.

    I’ve got a few rough ideas for the article on clonal tea and I’m still trying to find the time to complete it. Very soon, I hope.

    Warm regards.

  3. “The one question I have about clonals is whether or not there is any taste and quality difference if compared to non-clonals.”

    It’s difficult to compare these two because of the number of external variables at play – rainfall, soil and processing methods, to name a few. Like an economist, if we assume that all other factors are constant, then there will not be any difference, because clones are by definition, identical to the “mother-bush”.

    Of course, these factors are never constant.

    I can’t tell you if clonal tea is “better” than non-clonal, but tea planters tell me that what they like about clones is they give them more control in developing certain characteristics in their tea (such as greater abundance of tips, or even a certain flavor profile or leaf size). This is difficult to do with seed plants, as external variables play a greater role in the quality of the resulting leaf.

  4. “…but tea planters tell me that what they like about clones is they give them more control in developing certain characteristics in their tea (such as greater abundance of tips, or even a certain flavor profile or leaf size).”

    Interesting! So it is somewhat a similar concept with grapevines farming (well, both are agricultural products). They do name the pinot noir clones based on regional names and obscure codes, too. I will open up my wine tome later and send you a private email, because wine is just off-topic here 🙂

    I believe the database of clonals is kept by wine trade organizations, bootanical organizations, as well as academic insitutions with an enology department. UC Davis and Université Bordeaux are two academic institutions that pop up in my mind, though there are more, of course.

  5. 5 binu

    Hai, I am a small grower of Tea in Kerala.Im quite intrested at this site.Would like to know is TRF 1 clone better yielding than B5/63.Or rather which is the highest yielding clone in S india and in N India

  6. 6 BEN1


  7. Hi , Great to read a discussion on TEA !! and the views of non planters , as it were!!.
    Would love to hear more and if there are any inputs I can share, would be happy to do so.
    By the way I head a Tea Company in Viet Nam

  8. Thanks for finally writing about >Tea Yields Compared
    | Tea. Uncomplicated | The Simple Leaf Blog <Loved it!

  9. Get the number of bottles you want, but incase you are finished.

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  10. 10 Daniel

    Hi Phyll,

    Quite an interesting read here. I just have one question regarding this article; does the production recorded in the years above 2000 – 2004 represent green leaf or made tea? Thanks.

    Daniel from Kenya

  11. It’s remarkable to visit this web page and reading the views
    of all mates on the topic of this piece of writing, while I am also zealous
    of getting knowledge.

  1. 1 Investing In Indian tea « Tea. Uncomplicated

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