Kenya Tea

Quality teas grown in the lush Kenya highlands

The first tea bushes were planted at Limuru in Kenya in 1903 and production increased slowly in the highlands of Kericho and Nandi until the late 1950s when smallholders started growing tea on a trial basis. In 1959, it had been recognized that tea was a very important commodity for the country and the Tea Board of Kenya was established to regulate the industry. The Kenya Tea Development Authority was founded in 1964 with the objective of promoting the development of tea cultivation by Kenyan smallholders in suitable areas of the country. It is currently the largest single producer of tea in the world with 60 percent of the total crop currently produced by smallholders.

Tea plantation harvest Nairobi. Kenya.
Tea plantation harvest Nairobi. Kenya.

In the 1960s, there was only one factory, Ragati in Nyeri, but 43 more have been established in 13 tea-growing districts, and these handle a total of 27,557.8—33,069.3 tons of green leaf every year. The black CTC teas produced are very tippy and give a strong, rich, full-bodied liquor with an almost sweet fragrance. They are widely used in blending. One garden, Marinyn, produces a high quality, orthodox leaf that looks rather like an orthodox Assam.

The main growing areas are in the Kenya Highlands – an area ranging in altitude from 5,000 to 9,000 feet and where plenty of rainfall helps the bushes to produce quality leaf. Whereas most of Kenya is too dry to support arable crops, the mountains benefit from the warm, moist air that rises from Lake Victoria and turns to rain above the higher ground. The bushes flush all year, but the best teas are harvested in late January/early February and July. The quality of the teas is so consistently high that the industry has become one of the world s major producers. In 1992, Kenya ranked third after China and India, with a production of 207,234.3 tons – 7.8 percent of world production. Exports during that year were 182,983.5 tons, 16.5 percent of total world exports. In 2001, an all-time high was recorded of 327,434.9 tons, 284,526.4 tons of which were exported. The teas fetch premium prices on world markets. Kenya currently contributes 10 percent of total global tea production and commands 21 percent of all global tea exports outside producing countries. Major foreign customers include the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Canada, The Netherlands, Pakistan, Japan, Egypt, and Sudan.

Marinyn

Characteristics Beautiful orthodox leaf with plenty of tip from Kenya’s most famous garden. Gives a strong rich infusion with body and a full fruity flavor.
Brewing hints Use 1 teaspoon in a scant 1 cup water at 203°F. Infuse for 2 to 3 minutes.
Drinking recommendations Drink with milk as an afternoon tea.

Kenya Blend

Characteristics Good balanced flavor from golden red rich liquor.
Brewing hints Brew 1 teaspoon in a scant 1 cup water at 203°F. Infuse for 2 to 3 minutes.
Drinking recommendations Drink with milk as a breakfast or afternoon tea. Excellent with chocolate cakes and desserts.

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