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Tea growing areas will be badly affected if global warming intensifies | Climate change

Your morning cup of tea may never taste the same again if global warming increases and the climate crisis intensifies, according to research.

Some of the world’s largest tea growing areas will be among the hardest hit by extreme weather, and their yields are likely to be greatly reduced in the coming decades if climate collapse continues at the current rate. Floods, droughts, heat waves and storms are likely to have a severe impact on tea-growing areas around the world, according to a report by the charity Christian Aid.

Fast guide

Extreme heat has become more common in recent years


• Temperatures stayed above 34 ° C for six consecutive days last week in the UK, the longest period since comparable records began in the 1960s.

• Spring was the sunniest on record in the UK, even as millions of people were trapped inside due to the blockade. There were more hours of sunshine than in any year since the series began in 1929, and May was the driest in more than a century.

• February was the wettest in UK history, with 202.1mm of rain as storms hit the country.

• July was unusually wet and cool

• In April, meteorologists predicted that 2020 would be the hottest year in the world since records began

• Last year was Europe’s hottest on record, with 11 of the 12 warmest years on record in the last two decades

• Siberia has experienced temperatures more than 10 ° C above average this summer, in an Arctic heat wave that has alarmed scientists.

• Last summer, the Arctic sea ice was at its peak second lowest extension on record. This year may break records, and recent research suggests that Arctic sea ice is on track to disappear in summer by 2035.

• Antarctica reached a record 20.75 ° C in February, recorded on Seymour Island by Brazilian scientists, at the end of its summer.

• The last decade was the hottest on earth.

In Kenya, which produces about half of all the tea consumed in the UK, the area of ​​optimal tea growing conditions will be reduced by more than a quarter by 2050, while around 39% of the areas with conditions Medium-quality crops are facing destruction, according to the report.

However, even before the tea plantations are removed, tea drinkers may notice changes to their palate: the impacts of flooding and increased rainfall forecast in many tea regions will change the subtle flavors of the tea leaf. tea and potentially reduce its health benefits.

Waterlogging can prevent the ecological cues that cause the plant to release chemicals that enhance the taste of tea and create its antioxidant properties, appreciated as a potential health benefit by tea drinkers. These aromatic compounds, called secondary metabolites, which can also help boost the immune system and have anti-inflammatory properties, are also diluted when the plant receives too much water, resulting in lower-quality leaves and less palatable tea.

Kat Kramer, Climate Policy Leader for Christian Aid, said: “You will lose the delicate nuances of flavor, the things that make tea so special. It’s like removing herbs and spices from a recipe – you won’t get the same rich flavor. “

Women harvesting organic tea in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal in India.
Women harvesting organic tea in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal in India. Photograph: Getty Images

Tea growing areas in India, China and Sri Lanka are also likely to be affected, according to the report. Tea is also a major employer, with more than 3 million people in the sector in Africa alone, but tea growers interviewed for the research reported that many young people were looking for alternatives to tea plantations, concerned about the future.

Richard Koskei, 72, a tea grower from Kericho in the western highlands of Kenya, told the researchers: “For generations we have carefully cultivated our tea farms and are proud that the tea we grow here is the best in the world. world. But climate change poses a real threat to us. We can no longer predict the seasons, temperatures are increasing, rainfall is more erratic, more often accompanied by unusual hail and longer droughts, which was not the case in the past. “

The UK imported 126,000 tonnes of tea in 2017, of which 62,000 tonnes came from Kenya, the world’s largest exporter of black tea.

Christian Aid is calling on Boris Johnson to forge an agreement to strengthen global greenhouse gas emissions at the COP26 climate summit to be held in Glasgow this November. The charity also wants rich countries to provide poor regions with financial assistance to help them cope with the impacts of climate collapse and extreme weather.

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