Qiang Xu Yi Yang Kelin Hu Ji Chen Sylvestre Njakou Djomo Xiao Yang Marie Trydeman Knudsen
Tea is one of the most popular beverages worldwide, and the sustainability of tea production is of vital strategic importance to tea farmers and stakeholders in its value chain. China is a global leader in tea consumption, production, and export. Here, we conduct a joint economic, life cycle, and emergy analysis to provide a comprehensive picture of the economic and environmental sustainability of China's local and exported tea (tea for domestic consumption vs for export). Although local tea is much more profitable than exported tea, it is also much more environmentally damaging, with impacts being 2.2–64.0 times higher, mainly because of lower yields. Specifically, the GHG emissions of local tea are about 6 times those of exported tea (49.90 vs 8.28 kg CO2 eq/kg). A life-cycle-based scenario analysis indicates that the environmental impacts of China's local and exported tea can be substantially reduced (by 28–98%) by improving fertilizer use efficiency, adopting new varieties, and using renewable energy. Overall, our results show the environmental sustainability challenge of China's tea production and highlight the urgent need to take mitigation measures. Our study also provides important information for domestic and international tea beverage companies in their potential sustainable supply chain management of different tea products.
Tea supply chain; Global warming; Tea trade; Resource use; Life cycle assessment; Emergy analysis