Chemistry, Climate Change, Bugs & Tea

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Today we’re exploring a bit of tea science on Talking Tea. We’re joined by Eric Scott, a tea scientist and researcher at Tufts University, to chat about some of the ways a basic understanding of the science of tea can benefit us as tea consumers and tea professionals, and to get a glimpse into the research Eric is doing on the effects of climate change on tea and tea markets.

Eric tells us a bit about his own tea journey and the work he’s doing in tea chemistry, the chemical ecology of tea and the effects of climate change on tea. We chat with Eric about how even a little knowledge of tea chemistry adds to the story behind the tea we’re drinking, can enhance our enjoyment of tea and our perception of flavors, and, if we’re working in the tea industry, can help us educate consumers. We look at tea’s relationship with caffeine, the importance of caffeine to the tea plant and how understanding this can bust some myths about caffeine and tea. We touch on two topics relating to shou pu erh and heicha: we look at why you might want to rinse your leaves if you’re drinking shou pu erh or heicha, and we look at “fermentation”. Most of us in the tea world have probably heard that oolongs and black/red teas are oxidized, not fermented, but we go a little deeper into what “fermentation” actually is and why it’s not what actually happens in the processing of dark teas and shou puerh, even though those are often called “fermented” or “post-fermented”. 

Eric also gives us a peek into his research on the impact of climate change on tea. We chat about the effects of climate change on the monsoon season in Yunnan, and it’s potentially game-changing effects on pu erh the pu erh market. We touch on the effects of drought on tea farms in India and Taiwan. And we look at Eric’s work on climate change and bug-bitten teas, and how bug-bitten teas may help tea farmers succeed and innovate in the face of climate-change.

Eric’s Tea Science Tuesdays video series is available on the Tea Geek YouTube channel (and sometimes on Instagram). Eric is on Instagram @leafyeric and on Twitter @leafyericscott. More on Eric and his work is at his website, ericrscott.com.

Talking Tea is produced and hosted by Ken Cohen. You can follow Ken on Twitter @kensvoiceken  

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The views and opinions expressed by guests on Talking Tea are those of the guests and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Talking Tea or its staff.

This podcast features music from “Japanese Flowers” (https://soundcloud.com/mpgiii/japanese-flowers) by mpgiiiBEATS (https://soundcloud.com/mpgiii) available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/). Adapted from original.

Image “Chemistry is Awesome!!!”, by erika.hicks, used under a Creative Commons CC By 2.0 license.  Adapted from original.

Header image “Raw Puerh mid 1980 Menghai” by Cosmin Dordea, used under a Creative Commons CC By-SA 2.0 license. Adapted from original.

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