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Could Climate Change Alter Your Cup of Tea?

As we learn more about climate change and its effects, there is one area that may not readily come to mind: the tea industry.

Supposedly, a cup of tea in some areas in China may begin to taste a little different.

Climate change and its difference in temperatures and rainfall levels is said to be responsible for altering some agricultural systems, and tea fields may also be susceptible. Other significant changes like antioxidant levels, and even the scent of the tea leaves, are reportedly subject to variances.

Researchers from Tufts University are looking into how this favored beverage might be modified by climate.

There are currently plans for the biologist team to examine this concern over a 4 year period. They will be investigating 3 regions that are currently leading tea production in China which are the Yunnan, Zhejiang and Fujian provinces. The National Science Foundation grant funded research study will initially look at how climate change causes differences in the specific chemical compounds that are found in tea.

The taste of tea actually comes from a variety of chemicals which are reliant on the weather. These compounds are what gives tea its beneficial properties and produces its stimulant effect. Many teas, green tea and some varieties of black teas in particular, provide healthful doses of antioxidants and many other valuable qualities.

Research led by experts who worked closely with tea growers in these areas gathered surveyed reports of some of their crop yields and weather descriptions. They found that the tea farmers reported that they normally will see a reduced tea quality during the initial start of monsoon season. Also notable is a reduction in the chemical compounds during these speculative seasons.

Though learning more about tea cultivation is the main focus of the study there is the potential for more understanding of other agricultural produce in general, and how certain crops may be affected by varying climates. This could help farmers adapt their current systems to be more inclusive of factors that respond to our changing climate.

The researchers also plan to study consumers’ responsiveness to a changing tea, and how this may affect the market. Some concerns are that if the tea is in fact determined to be altered in taste and its useful properties are reduced that consumers will not as readily buy the beverage.

Conversation about climate change is seemingly everywhere, even swirling around in your cup of tea.

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