Tea is, after water, the most commonly consumed drink in the world. Man needs fluid to survive. But do we also need tea? Is tea a luxury? Do drinks have a social aspect that goes beyond the mere consumption of liquid? An essay by Friends of Tea.

Noble Tea Darjeeling First Flush
High-quality black tea from Darjeeling

Drinks as a social engine

People have been using all kinds of drinks for thousands of years. In Areni, a village in southern Armenia, a 6100-year-old wine production site was found. A long time ago, drinks were important to people. The infusion of the dried leaves of the camellia Sinensis plant, also known as tea, has been deeply rooted in the everyday life of many East Asian cultures for thousands of years.

In Africa and the Middle East, coffee has long been used as a natural watchmaker. In Italy, coffee is considered a staple food. The drink from the roasted bean is of great importance to the Italians. Not just because the drink tastes good, but because it brings people together. Meeting in a café or visiting Grandma in the afternoon would not be the same without this drink. YouTuber Matt D’Vella has given up caffeine for 30 days in one of his videos. After the experiment, he discovered that he misses coffee not because of its caffeine and stimulating effect, but because of its social aspect.

Similar things can be observed in countries such as great Britain or the Region of East Frisia. Unfortunately, these countries rarely drink really high-quality tea. There is rarely any talk of enjoyment here: anyone who has ever had a bag of tetley’s pulled for more than half a minute knows what I am talking about. Although Earl Grey & Co. can be tasty in some cases, English tea time isn’t just about drinking tea. It’s also about coming together, chatting and eating a little bit. The tea is the delicious fuel for the social engine.

Many people also resort to the stimulating effect of caffeine. Until a few hundred years ago, people in Europe were drinking beer or wine. These drinks are fine at a party, but the drinks are not really suitable at work in the morning or at the afternoon gossip. Caffeine, on the other hand, with its stimulant effect, is ideal for social events or as a cheerleader. It wakes people up and makes people talk – a welcome change for many and the reason why caffeinated drinks became so successful in Europe in the wake of globalisation.

Economic definition of a luxury goods – what makes a luxury goods?

Something can be considered a luxury commodity as soon as the consumption increases disproportionately with higher incomes. For a good like bread, consumption is relatively constant at different income levels, because a rich person cannot eat more bread than someone from the middle class.

However, expensive goods such as caviar, truffles or fine jewellery are only affordable after a certain income level. For these products, consumption can be observed to increase disproportionately with increased income.

The same applies to our favourite hot drink. Some teas can cost a lot of money. High-quality green tea such as the Japanese Gyokuro or the powdered Matcha can cost as much per gram as truffles. These teas are an expression of a craft perfected over generations, which makes the tea rare, expensive and therefore also a luxury.

However, not all teas are so expensive, quite the contrary. There is a wealth of affordable teas to buy. Quite apart from bag teas, which often cost only a few cents, there are also good loose teas to get for small money. Our economic model can be reapplied with these teas. Those who are satisfied with a simple green and black tea will no longer drink or otherwise when their income rises.


Is tea a luxury?


Taxation of tea

Let’s take a little excursion into VAT law. After all, all goods we buy are subject to VAT (also, in colloquially, multi-defence tax). For most products, this tax rate is currently 19 . On essential things of daily life, the tax rate is only 7 . This includes food and consumer goods, but also the ticket to the cinema or the swimming pool. And also tea.

Of course, tea is not necessary for survival. However, these drinks have a meaning for people and society and that is something that even the state respects in its tax arrangements.


Whether tea is a luxury commodity is difficult to assess. Many drinks, including tea, have an unmistakable social benefit or are firmly integrated into the everyday life of many people. From this point of view, tea is not a luxury commodity, but a staple food or daily consumer. Extremely high-quality teas can also be an expensive product, which is only affordable for a few and serves purely for the enjoyment or increase of personal well-being, but not for basic needs. Here, tea is clearly to be classified as a luxury commodity again.

What do you think of it? Is tea a luxury for you? Let us know!

Fancy a cup of tea?

At friends of tea you will find high quality black and green tea as well as high quality oolong tea from Taiwan! We look forward to your visit in our tea shop!

This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)