In China, climate change is reportedly affecting the cultivation of tea, with changes in temperatures and rainfall altering the taste, aroma, and potential health benefits of the beverage.
A research team headed by Tufts University biologist Colin Orians will study this development in a four-year project funded by a 931,000-dollar-grant from the National Science Foundation.
The study will first examine how climate change affects the concentration of chemical compounds that are responsible for tea's stimulant, sensory and healthful properties.
Their work will build on preliminary research conducted in southwestern China's Yunnan Province by co-principal investigator and tea expert Selena Ahmed while she was a graduate student and later Training in Education and Critical Research Skills Program (TEACRS) postdoctoral fellow at Tufts.
Green tea, Orians notes, is widely known to contain high concentrations of antioxidants that are believed to help prevent or moderate a range of health problems associated with the heart, blood sugar and digestion.
The study findings may also help scientists and growers better understand climate change's effects on other agricultural products such as grapes and cherries.
In addition to studying the concentrations of tea's key chemicals, the researchers will survey consumers to determine how tea drinkers respond to teas of diminished quality.