The Effect of Global Warming in the Green Tea Industry, Part IV
So far this series has covered how climate change has affected the tea industry, from the tea farmers, the tea farms, farming practices and most especially, the future of the tea industry itself.
As farmers have the most vested interest in keeping the stability of the tea industry, they have expressed their concerns which resulted in the United Nations FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) and the Working Group on Climate Change which came up with a list of recommended practices to cope against the changes brought by climate change.
While the industry is looking towards the future, the consumers, however, aren’t looking too far ahead. They just want a good cup of tea to mull over their thoughts, to comfort them, to bring them peace. But it looks like climate change is about to change the taste of their tea.
Global warming has made its itself known but do the avid fans of the world’s most popular drink taste the difference in their cup of matcha green tea?
So how has climate change affected the flavor of tea? Scientists that are closely monitoring the state of saying that today’s tea and the tea bushes that produced that tea are not quite the same as it they were the past decade. Yes it has changed, scientists say, but we can’t feel it - yet.
The extended periods of rain and longer droughts have more than just the tea harvest in the past few years. The rain has been unforgiving in China, and for farmers, that’s both a blessing and a curse. Increased precipitation during the seasonal transition from the spring drought to the monsoon tea harvest results in an increase in tea yields and a decrease in quality.
Similar to how tea leaves grown under the shade adapt to the lack of sunlight, they are just as adaptive to the extended periods of rain and sunlight. A study found that the major antioxidant compounds that determine tea properties – including epigallocatechin, epigallocatechin gallate, epicatechin gallate, gallocatechin gallate, catechin, and gallic acid – can rise and fall by up to 50 percent. The change is big enough to not only affect the taste, but also the nutritive properties of the beverage.
A lot of the healthy compounds, antioxidants, that give tea its distinctive bitter and sweet flavor, are reduced when tea leaves are harvested during the monsoon season.
In comparison, the tea cultivated and harvested outside the monsoon season is superior both in chemical composition and flavor profile. Another issue that affects the taste of tea harvested during the monsoon season is that they require more drying and processing.
To find out which tea more people preferred - monsoon or non-monsoon tea - a study was conducted where tea farmers were made to pick tea they preferred more. The results showed that an overwhelming majority of people considered non-monsoon tea was much, much better.