First, and most importantly, I want to give a huge shout-out to my mommy on her birthday! She has been putting up with my brother for almost 30 years and with me for almost 27 years. Definitely a saint :-) I hope she has a very happy birthday today!
Now, on to tea…
We all have at least heard of climate change. Polar bears being stuck on small ice sheets slowly melting into the ocean. The world having more drastic weather patterns. We need to start reversing the effects.
Whatever your thoughts on climate change, whether it is man-made or normal weather pattern shifts, or if it is even happening, Science magazine states that the climate is affecting our tea.
Selena Ahmed is an ethnobotanist (one who studies the relationship that exists between people and plants) at Montana State University in Bozeman. Right now, she is over in China’s Yunnan province to see how climate change is affecting the taste of their tea.
The reasoning behind all of this? The mix of phyochemicals responsible for the taste in tea may be more sensitive to the constant change of the climate than the yield of the actual crop. So, while the Yunnan province farmers might be having a huge crop each year, the crop might not taste as good. The rainfall is highly important to the tea process. More rain will mean that the tea grows faster, which may sound like a good thing, but that means that the quality of the tea goes down. Before the monsoon season in China, the tea can fetch $680 per kilogram. However, after the rainy season, the price drops to $405.
Due to climate change, the temperature in Yunnan’s capital has climbed 1.5 degrees Celsius over the past 50 years and monsoon season has been arriving later. In 2011, is arrived 22 days later than in 1980.
This change in the weather has also allowed some less-than-ideal pests, such as caterpillars and tea mosquitoes, to raid the tea plants and destroy the leaves that brew the tea in the first place. This raises the pesticide use to try and combat these pests, which in turn affects the consumer. Ten Ren, for example, was cited by the FDA for having pesticide-tainted tea. What is one to do if their crop is being eaten before it can even be picked?
To study this relationship, Ahmed traveled to Yunnan, which is known for its pu-erh tea (a personal favorite of mine. Earthy and almost like drinking a rich coffee). This four-year project, backed by the U.S. National Science Foundation, will examine the linkage among climate change, tea quality, and farmer livelihood.
Hopefully, the planet can be saved soon and the effects of global warming turned around even faster. After all, as far as I know, Earth is the only place to get a good cuppa. Let’s make sure we keep it preserved.