It is enough to break your heart - 800 unused tea bags buried, never to be drunk.
|Japanese Lime Green Tea in a Pyramid Tea Bag|
In Landcare Research scientist Dr Barbara Anderson's mind, it is all part of the plan to better understand climate change.
Anderson buried the tea bags to measure rates of organic decomposition across an altitudinal gradient at Mt Cardrona in Central Otago. When plant material decomposes, carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Fast decay means more carbon in the atmosphere, while slower decay means more carbon stock in soil.
Pyramid-shaped tea bags were selected because the synthetic mesh bags did not decompose.
Decomposition was typically measured using hand-made bags of dried organic material, called "litterbags", she said.
"The litterbags are not only time-consuming to make but there's a huge amount of variance in the plant material in the bags unlike the tea bags which are standardised."
The tea bags serve just one part of Anderson's five-year Rutherford Discovery Fellowship. Decomposition rate was "one small piece in the puzzle of what will happen with climate change", she said. "The balance between carbon stored in the soil and carbon released back into the atmosphere is dependent on many factors, including temperature, and in turn has the potential to accelerate or buffer the effects of climate change."
Utrecht University in the Netherlands is operating a "citizen science" project, where people can do their own tea bag experiment and submit their results at www.decolab.org
If you are looking to do your own experiment, TEA TOTAL has got Pyramid Shaped Tea Bags for you to use. While we cannot say what the result of your Climate Change Experiment will be, we can certainly vouch for the ability of our pyramid tea bags to make a great cup of tea – no matter the climate.