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Climate Change and its Effect on Tea Production

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Global Warming has been the hot topic for any climate convention for the past few decades. The increasing industrialisation has caused a progressive increase in temperatures across the globe. Ever since the increasing temperatures have reached a noticeable limit, farmers in particular have been facing a large problem with their crops.

While the effects of global warming have already had their impact on the coffee industry, tea too is being affected due to the rising temperatures. Researchers are now also focussing on the tea industry, and early research does not bode well for them. Some of the research even indicated that the tea yield may decline up to 40-50 percent in some parts of the world.

Increasing costs of maintaining the tea crops while coping with climate change may even force the small tea plantations to completely go out of business in the coming decades. Planting a tea bush is an investment in itself as the bush lasts for nearly 60 years. Making such a long term investment might not be feasible any more due the unpredictable nature of climate change.

Long term affects of the climate change will only come to light as the years progress. However, the problems caused by the change are already visible in low-lying tea plantations like Assam. “Earlier, we had evenly spread rainfall,” says Manish Bagaria who has a tea estate in Dibrugarh, northern Assam. “Now, what we have been noticing over the decade is we get a lot of rainfall in one particular month or a couple of months and that erodes the topsoil of the tea garden. While that already affects our production, the dry spell makes our bushes prone to pests, for which we have to use more pesticides and that means higher costs.”

Yet another problem posed by global warming is the declining quality of tea. The flavour of tea is extremely sensitive and varies from year to year depending on the year’s weather. The high-end teas are the most affected as they require a very specific growing environment which is being hampered by the changing climate. China’s Yunnan province is known for its twin tips that can fetch up to $1000 per gram. “The flavour can change from morning to afternoon because of (shifts in) the concentration of amino acids and chemistry. It’s a really a micro kind of thing,” said Bob Heiss, an author and co-owner of Tea Trekker.

Such a sensitive chemistry is being slowly destroyed by the industrial revolution that is still continuing in the world. If we are not careful, we might even lose the precious teas that give us a reason to wake up every morning!

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