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Tea-growing areas to be badly hit if global heating intensifies

Tea-growing areas to be badly hit if global heating intensifies

In Kenya, the area of optimal tea-growing conditions will be reduced by more than a quarter by 2050

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

Some of the world’s biggest tea-growing areas will be among the worst hit by extreme weather, and their yields are likely to be vastly reduced in the coming decades if climate breakdown continues at its current pace. Floods, droughts, heatwaves and storms are likely to have a severe impact on tea-growing areas around the world, according to a report from the charity Christian Aid.

In Kenya, which produces close to 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 about 39% of areas with medium-quality growing conditions are facing destruction, according to the report.

Even before tea plantations are wiped out, however, tea drinkers may notice changes on their palate: the impacts of flooding and the increased rainfall forecast in many tea regions will be to change the subtle flavours of the tea leaf, and potentially reduce its health benefits.

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

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