Teak grows naturally in the forests of India, Thailand, Burma, Laos and Cambodia. Used for centuries by local people, teak is an extremely durable wood due to its natural oil. In fact, teak structures have been uncovered in the jungle that date back a thousand years.

Because of its durability, teak has been in demand for building ships for hundreds of years.

The British annexed India and Burma largely for access to teak, which was used to construct the British naval fleet which was the main means used by the British for conquering and exerting subsequent control over British colonies.

By 1900, teak in India had been largely eliminated and the British had turned to Thailand and Burma.

The US became a large teak importer after 1900 for decking for ships and sail boats and in the 1950s and 60s as Scandinavian design furniture and flooring. All of the US ships built for WWII (made almost entirely of metal) still had teak decks.

In fact, in 1996, one of the largest US teak importers, Dean Hardwoods of North Carolina, convinced the military junta in control of Burma to give the US government enough teak to redeck the US battleship, the USS North Carolina, which was renovated and subsequently docked in Wilmington as a museum.

Dean Hardwoods is one of the few US companies that imports teak directly from Burma, thus helping to fund the military junta.

A relatively fast growing tree, teak has been heavily planted in its natural range as well as elsewhere, especially in Indonesia, Ecuador and Costa Rica. As of 1997, about 40% of US teak lumber imports were from Ecuador.

Teak is used in the US for flooring, boat building (especially sail boats), furniture (especially Scandinavian design indoor furniture, office furniture and British design outdoor furniture) and is imported in smaller amounts as finished items such as picture frames, salad bowls, napkin holders and desk sets.