Are you a tea drinker? Are you a fan of burly, dark Irish Breakfast, English Breakfast, or any other blends made from Assam tea? Then we have bad news for you: Assam teas are becoming wimpier and it looks as if climate change is the culprit.
News from India – the world’s largest producer of tea – is that the climate of Assam state in the country’s northeast is getting warmer and wetter. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for tea, per se, but it’s Assam’s unique geographical attributes that have made the full, astringent flavors of Assamese tea possible. Production has dropped by almost 100,000 tons since 2007 and the flavor of the tea is, according to Associated Press, weakened.
“Earlier, we used to get a bright, strong cup. Now it’s not so,” L.P. Chaliha, a professional tea taster, told the AP.
“In the tea-growing areas of Assam, average temperatures have risen 2C [3.6F] and rainfall has fallen by more than a fifth in the past 80 years,” reported Britain’s The Independent. “Globally, 2010 was the hottest year on record, according to temperature readings by Nasa’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies. An increase in temperatures affects the ability of the plant to grow.”
The British introduced commercial tea production to Assam in the 19th century. Attempts to plant popular Chinese varieties failed but a local strain of tea – Camellia sinensis var. assamica – proved quite adept for commercial needs. Assam tea “has more phenolic compounds and caffeine than China tea,” writes Harold McGee in his book, On Food and Cooking, “and produces a stronger, darker black tea.”
There’s more than just higher temperatures at work, though. Changing weather patterns also produce erratic weather which stresses the plants. While over all rainfall has decreased, the number of sunny days during the annual monsoon have decreased, as well, meaning the plants are struggling with damper conditions. Damper condition are perfect, however, for the tea mosquito bug, a particularly destructive pest.
It isn’t only tea that’s affected by the change in weather patterns, by the way. French wine producers, too, are feeling the impact of warmer weather, according to AP, which affects not only the flavor of their products, but the alcohol content. The problem is only expected to get worse.
“The U.N. science network foresees temperatures rising up to 6.4 degrees Celsius (11.5 degrees F) by 2100,” reported the AP. “NASA reported earlier this month that the January-November 2010 period was the warmest globally in the 131-year record. U.N. experts say countries’ current voluntary pledges on emissions cuts will not suffice to keep the temperature rise in check.”
This is not good news for me, I’ve loved this dark, flavourful tea as long as I can remember – Ted 😦
Text from Delish.com