Researchers including professor Selena Ahmed from the Montana State University found that major antioxidant compounds that determine tea health properties and flavour, including epigallocatechin, epigallocatechin gallate and catechin fell up to 50 percent in an area of southwest China during an extreme monsoon, while other compounds increased.
Household income from the sales of tea grown during the extreme monsoon also dropped by up to 50 percent, Ahmed said.
The findings are based on samples taken from tea gardens in southwest China. The researchers collected samples from two extreme weather events an extreme drought and an extreme monsoon and performed a chemical analysis of the samples.
They also interviewed tea farmers, who perceived the tea grown during the monsoon to be of lower quality and preferred tea grown outside of the monsoon season.
The results of the research could have significant impacts on farmers' livelihoods around the globe, said Ahmed, the paper's lead author.
"Extrapolating findings from this study with climate scenarios suggests that tea farmers will face increased variability in their livelihoods with the increased prevalence and intensity of extreme droughts and heavy rains associated with climate change," Ahmed said.
"The study has compelling implications not only for tea, but also for all other food and medicinal plants for which changes in weather patterns can alter flavour and nutritional and medicinal properties," said Ahmed.
"We are very interested in understanding not only how climate impacts tea quality and farmer livelihoods, but also the factors that enable farmers to adapt to climate risk," study's co-author, Rick Stepp, an associate professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Florida, said.
The finding was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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