At the beginning of the 18th century, British merchants brought green tea from China to Northwest Africa for the first time. A cornerstone for a new and unique tea culture was laid. This emerging culture would be benefitting from the steady growth of the trade with tea and quickly be found throughout Africa.
The Maghreb tea ceremony, which can vary slightly from country to country and sometimes from place to place, is still focused on enjoying Green tea today. The tea is brewed for several minutes, even simmered, leaves are taken out and the liquid is brought up to a boil again with a generous amount of sugar. Fresh leaves of the Nanamint are added to the perfume the drink at this point in preparation or later when served. This hot but refreshing tea is provided from a bulbous teapot into small glasses in a big gesture of pouring and refilled two more times. In the meantime, this ceremonial enjoyment of tea has continued to develop and one often encounters other varieties in the numerous countries and cultures of Africa. However, you will always find an extra bit of sweetness. There is a saying that the first infusion is bitter as death, the second lovely like life, and the third sweet as love.
Like many other tea cultures, the African one developed with the introduction of Chinese teas by European traders and travellers. George W. L. Caine, the eldest son of a British diplomat, did not bring processed tea to Africa, but instead brought seeds of Camellia sinensis - the tea plant - to Kenya. In 1903, Caine set up the first tea plantation in Limuru, The Mabroukie tea garden which can still be admired today. The ancient-looking tea trees grew from the seeds Caine planted; not knowing that Kenya would one day become the third largest tea producer in the world.
Kenyan teas are grown at altitudes of 1500 to 3000 meters and benefit from the constant warm climate and fertile soils. As a result of this, buds and the very first two leaves can be harvested all year round. If you imagine the hot weather, the rich, dark red soils and the subtropical to tropical climate, you get an idea of why these cultivars bring us such delicious, strong and unique teas. All of them with a mesmerising warmth in their character. Although most of the production ends up in tea blends and is produced in mass for mainstream there are more and more farmers who specialize in top-quality teas and even produce their own hybrids and expand our tea horizons.
The Kenyan Tea Research Foundation produced one of these hybrids: “Purple Tea” or TRFK 306, this is the official name of this cultivar. The buds and young leaves of this relatively new type of tea have higher levels of anthocyanins, the same antioxidants that give other foods such as blueberries, grapes, and even red cabbage and eggplant their colour. Because of their ability to bind free radicals in our body and thereby reduce internal cell inflammation, anthocyanins are said to have strong health-promoting effects.
Another black tea from Kenya is our Savanna Gold N°509. This pure gold bud tea is made in the style of a Chinese Dian Hong. Each of these individually rolled leaves comes up with a lush spectrum of exciting flavours. The influence of the Kenyan terroir is unmistakable present: The notes of oak and anise, cocoa and walnut, as well as pear and citrus resemble an aromatic call of the wilderness. A taste experience with every golden, red cup.
Our Silver Sindano N°106 on the opposite is an extraordinary white tea that surprises with a much more delicate and fresher palate. It is an impressive example of what orthodox Chinese processing methods can produce in other regions around the globe. The silver needles, in Swahili sindano, are extracted from the most tender vernal buds and dried in the sun at a low temperature to obtain a complex aroma, which is accompanied by sweet notes of white peach and cocoa butter.
Another exceptional White tea we found, is grown in the first tea gardens in Malawi with a history dating back to the 1920s. Its velvety stems, which are reminiscent of soft deer antlers and giving it its name, are selected by hand during processing. The result is a soft, golden-peach-coloured cup with luscious aromas of tropical flowers, steamed apricot and lychee. You will probably be surprised by our Lapansi Antlers N°114.
Finally, we would like to introduce you to another speciality that can only be found on the African continent and is only cultivated in the region around the Cederberg Mountains. The leaves of this plant have been brewed and enjoyed as a drink, hot and cold, for centuries. We are talking about rooibos tea, the national drink of South Africa. It was not until the 1930s that Dutch settlers began to cultivate this herbal tea, which soon became a world-famous export hit. Rooibos tea is usually oxidized, giving it its red colour and full-bodied aroma. With our Green Rooibos N°803, the step of oxidation is avoided by slightly heating it up. The result is a milder, mineral-rich infusion with peach-sweet aromas and woody, grassy notes. A rooibos tea that is second to none. An oxidized rooibos, on the other hand, forms the foundation for our spicy Master Blend Cederberg Chai N°817. This caffeine-free Chai combines the South African classic with typical spices of the Cape Malay people. Hearty roasted peppers, sweet coconut and a pinch of liquorice make this tea blend irresistible and an invigorating beverage.
African teas are a wonderful example of how long-established traditions can take root elsewhere and lead to unexpected success. In the present day, tea and its cultivation has become an indispensable part of the culture and economy of many African countries and is producing an increasing and diverse amount of top-quality teas which enrich our portfolio. Which of these African teas will you try first?