Why cost of a cuppa is boiling over

cuppa in the floodsAnthony Devlin/PA Archive/Press Association Images

We can take years of floods, droughts, miserable austerity and hopelessness, while maintaining a stiff upper lip, but the latest horror could send us over the edge: the cost of tea is set to rise 15% after a massive surge in the wholesale price.

So what's going on, and could this spell the end for the British cuppa?

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We are wedded to our tea. In Britain we collectively get through 62 billion cups of it a year. It's our cure for everything from boredom to shock. It's what we wake up to, come home to, and miss like mad when we're on holiday.
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Rising prices

However, our devotion to tea is set to be tested. The international cost of black tea has risen 41% since the beginning of the year - taking it to a record for the last two and a half years.

According to a report in the Daily Mail the change is due to a terrible crop in Kenya - the world's largest exporter of tea. First it was hit by drought, and then later in the year, many of the plants were killed off by frost. Around half of Britain's tea comes from Kenya, so this will have a direct effect.

Meanwhile, monsoon season in India and Sri Lanka damaged crops there, which will mean cheaper tea is not available elsewhere. Kaison Chang spokesman for the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said in a statement: "Indications are that the price is going to go up pretty high."

Hits consumers

The tea we drink isn't quite this high quality black tea, so the effect on the cost of a cup is likely to be closer to 15%. The tea manufacturers are struggling enough as it is, so are more than likely to pass the cost on to shoppers.

That would take the price of 80 teabags from around £2.55 to closer to £2.95. It is also likely to see the average £1.10 of a shop-bought cup increase to £1.38. The rises are expected to filter through by the winter.

Death of the cuppa?

So will we turn our back on tea? Certainly the cost is among the highest points in living memory. The price of 80 bags this winter will be £1 more expensive than it was 13 years ago. At the same time the cost of coffee is actually falling.

However, according to ICRA Management Consultancy, we will take this on the chin: world tea consumption is expected to grow almost 3% this year.

Even after the price rises, this still works out as roughly a third of a penny per cup. Where else can you buy refreshment, comfort, familiarity and sympathy that cheap? Despite the rises, there's every chance that tea is set to stay as the world's second most consumed beverage and Britain's favourite by far.

But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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