Tufts University Biology Professor Colin Orians has begun his work on a multi-year study looking at the impact of climate change on the growth of tea in China.
Orians and his team received a National Science Foundation grant of $931,000 to take a particular look at how rainfall affects tea production. In “Climate Effects on Tea Quality and Socioeconomic Responses,” the team will consider how the extremes of dry days and monsoons impact not only the taste and texture of the tea when infused, but the actual chemistry of the leaves themselves.
Orians is undertaking the project with co-principals John Stepp, Sean Cash, Selena Ahmed and Albert Robbat Jr. as well as graduate students and professors from the departments of chemistry, biology, environmental studies and nutrition. (The funding for this study was challenged previously by Rep. Matt Salmon, R-AZ, but the grant had already been committed.) There will be samples taken from farms in China, greenhouse studies, economic surveys and studies, sensory tasting assessments, as well as laboratory analysis of the compounds within the plant. The key goal is to assess the ways in which tea might be most at risk of the effects of climate change and how those impacts may change farming and land use.
Early tastings suggested that the dry season teas were more pleasing to the researchers than those plucked during wetter periods. This is important as climate change is contributing to longer monsoon seasons which could have a deleterious effect on the tea and the price farmers can command in the long term.