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

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

LONDON: The beloved British tradition of tea consumption faces potential disruption as the supermarket industry warns of supply risks due to shipping disruptions in the Red Sea, Reuters reported.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) reported “temporary disruption” to some black tea lines, with delays noted in flavoured varieties, raising concerns about potential shortages.

While major supermarket groups currently show ample tea supply on their websites, industry warnings suggest that the duration of disruptions in Red Sea shipping will determine whether consumers encounter empty shelves across Europe. This marks the first warning related to a food item, following disruptions caused by attacks on ships in the Red Sea by 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 Kenya and India. The Institute of Export & International Trade (IEIT) reveals that the UK 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, assures 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 sources acknowledge a few delays, they do not anticipate a significant shortage. IEIT Director General Marco Forgione suggests that tea might be the precursor to other items affected by the ongoing supply chain crisis. 

The alternative shipping route around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope poses a longer 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 cautioned on potential disruptions to Red Sea shipments.