Sustainability, Climate Change and Tea

The environment plays a critical role in the establishment and cultivation of a successful tea crop. Temperature, moisture, and soil conditions are critical factors in growing high quality tea. Selena Ahmed, Assistant Professor of Sustainable Food and Bioenergy Systems at Montana State University has been examining ways that the industry can protect itself against the negative impacts of climate change and further promote a sustainable system.

SelenaAhmedAhmed’s research was inspired by an awareness that the taste and quality of some teas has changed over time. Her research had her looking at some of the reasons this might have occurred.

The researcher recognizes that the price of spring harvested tea is far higher than those teas harvested when the monsoons begin. This price differential is important as some traditional tea growing areas have seen more unpredictability in rainfall in terms of duration and the strength of the storms. At the same time, winters and summers have warmed with fewer very cold days and less frost. Worldwide, temperatures have gone up, as have carbon dioxide levels. Extreme weather and a lack of predictable patterns have also become evident. These variations change not only the total yield, but also the location where tea can be successfully grown.

IMG_7396The research has also shown that higher than usual precipitation actually changes the volume of aromatics and secondary metabolites in the tea plant which affect flavor profile.

Ahmed spoke at World Tea Expo about ways to adapt and protect that can create “climate-smart tea systems.” These systems help maintain crop yield and quality even in the face of these global changes, while protecting both the environment and the health of the growers. Some of the programs discussed include better fertilizer management, drainage improvement and micro-irrigation, as well as considering agro-forest planting as opposed to terraced tea farms. Learn more: