Teapocalypse: Brits’ beloved beverage tea may go scarce in UK


According to Reuters, the cherished British tradition of tea consumption could encounter disruptions as the supermarket industry alerts of supply risks caused by shipping disruptions in the Red Sea.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) highlighted “temporary disruption” in certain black tea lines, with delays specifically observed in flavored varieties, sparking concerns regarding potential shortages.

According to recent reports, while major supermarket chains currently display ample tea supplies on their websites, industry warnings indicate that the duration of shipping disruptions in the Red Sea could determine whether consumers in Europe face empty shelves. This serves as the first cautionary note regarding a food item, following disruptions caused by attacks on ships in the Red Sea by the Iran-aligned Houthi militia.

As the world’s fifth-largest tea importer, Britain heavily relies on the Red Sea route for over half of its imported tea from countries like Kenya and India. The Institute of Export & International Trade (IEIT) reveals that the UK also processes and packages unprocessed tea, making it the 10th largest tea exporter globally.

Andrew Opie, Director of Food and Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, reassures minimal impact on consumers, stating, “There is temporary disruption to some black tea lines, but the impact on consumers will be minimal as retailers are not expecting significant challenges.”

While industry insiders acknowledge some delays, they do not foresee a substantial shortage. Marco Forgione, Director General of the IEIT, suggests that tea could serve as a harbinger for other items affected by the ongoing supply chain crisis.

The alternative shipping route around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope presents a lengthier journey, potentially adding 10-14 days compared to the Red Sea and Suez Canal route. Clothing retailers Next, Pepco Group, Primark, and Matalan have also warned of potential disruptions to Red Sea shipments.

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