British cuppa ‘could be under threat from climate change’, new report warns

·3-min read
Man holding a cup of tea in two hands, in a spotty mug.
Could the great British cuppa be under threat? (Getty)

The great British cuppa could be at risk from climate change, as rising temperatures threaten crops in the biggest tea-growing countries, a report from Christian Aid has warned

In tea-growing countries such as Kenya and Ceylon, tea growers fear for their livelihoods, as climate change will cut optimal conditions for tea production in Kenya by 26% by 2050. 

In areas such as Assam and Darjeeling, climate change could lead to increased rainfall, leading to inferior-tasting tea, the report warned

The researchers wrote: "Tea is the most consumed drink in the world after water and it’s the most popular hot beverage in the UK with three-quarters of the population drinking at least one cup a day.

“However climate change is threatening the future of the British cuppa. 

“Rising temperatures, drought, erratic rainfall and flash floods are taking their toll on the key tea growing regions of the world, damaging the delicate leaves that go into our teabags and ruining the livelihoods of the people who grow and pick those leaves.”

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In Kenya, tea growing areas are under threat from volatile temperatures and increased rainfall, the researchers warned. 

A survey of 700 farmers in seven of Kenya’s tea-growing regions by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Agency found that 43% of the farmers had noticed changes in rainy and dry seasons, which impacted planting season. 

Areas with only average growing conditions will see production fall by 39% by mid-century.

Big British tea brands and the Fairtrade Foundation have also raised concerns about the impact climate change is having on tea growers and the future of production.

Dr Kat Kramer, Christian Aid’s climate policy lead, said: “This year the UK government has a key role in overseeing the global response to the climate emergency.

“As host of both the G7 in June and the COP26 climate summit in November, the UK can ensure that countries on the front line of this crisis can adapt and respond to the impacts of climate change.

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“With countries starting to announce improved climate plans, there is a unique opportunity to accelerate cuts in emissions and boost the finance needed to help countries adapt to the changing climate.”

The warning comes as the UK prepares to host the G7 meeting of major economies next month.

Boris Johnson has said that climate, and finance for poor countries to cope with global warming, will be centre stage at the G7 meeting.

Britain will also host key UN COP26 climate talks in Glasgow in November.

Richard Koskei, 72, a tea farmer from Kericho in Kenya’s Western Highlands, said: “We are proud that the tea that we grow here is the best in the world but climate change poses a real threat to us.

“We cannot predict seasons anymore, temperatures are rising, rainfall is more erratic, more often accompanied by unusual hailstones and longer droughts which was not the case in the past.

“If this continues then it will make growing tea much harder and life for us extremely difficult.”

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