I had the great privilege of joining this two-day meeting as part of my sabbatical, during which I am working on a two-volume reference book entitled Geography of Coffee & Tea for ABC-CLIO, publishers. I have a lot to learn about the geography of coffee and even more to learn about the geography of tea.
Having no diplomatic credentials, I was very grateful to be admitted to the meeting as an observer, and gratified to be included in one of the Working Group on Climate Change, whose official members are shown above at our (covered) poolside meeting. I was able to participate as a geographer with this group of top tea researchers from Sri Lanka, India, and Kenya (shown left to right).
discussion paper) that will guide the FAO-IGG on tea as it prepares to help tea growers around the world adapt to climate change. Building on the PRECIS regional climate model from the British Hadley Centre. Climate change and tea production are spatially quite variable, and climate varies temporally as well. Because a given cultivar of tea remains in place for 40 years or more, climate adaptation means mapping the best tea cultivars for future conditions. We have taken a small step toward using GIS to provide decision support for farmers adapting to change.
I had been doing most of my recent writing on the teas of Sri Lanka, so I was delighted to meet quite a few Sri Lankans, and to ask directly about the uses of :"Ceylon" and "Sri Lanka." The colonial name (Ceylon) of the country had so much global recognition that it is still used to refer to the tea, even though the country itself has reverted to its pre-colonial name (Sri Lanka).
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As I was discussing this, Sri Lanka's trade minister invited me to a tea seminar and tasting later in the week, to hosted by the only ambassador at our meeting, the Hon. Jaliya Wickramasuriya. The event was both informative and enjoyable.
We learned about the trade in Ceylon tea, the care that is taken with protecting its reputation, and its importance to the Sri Lankan economy. We also learned about Walter's Bay, a U.S. company that maintains as much of the tea commodity chain as possible inside of Sri Lanka.This is a cost-effective way to promote social sustainability in tea processing.
At the end, we were treated to a tasting that included all of the Sri Lanka's regional appellations.
2018 Updates: I eventually had to abandon the encyclopedia project -- a semester off from teaching was not nearly enough time to complete it. But the experience did expand my beverage horizons and let to a new colloquium on tea and climate change.
The group I met with in D.C. continued its work, and though it took a different shape than originally envisioned, it has led to a comprehensive report on climate change in the tea industry, which includes thoughtful ideas on both cause and effect.