Kenyan Tea

Jens on Kenyan tea plantation

In our ongoing quest for the finest leaves the world has to offer, we visited farms around Mount Kenya to meet the passionate people behind our very special and limited orthodox – meaning hand-picked and processed – Kenyan teas. These teas truly are a marvel and, as we write this, virtually unknown even to self-professed tea nerds! And so, before we divulge the story here to our loyal readership of this most exciting and, we find, exhilarating development in specialty tea, a few words of introduction to Kenya’s tea industry.

Tea harvesting in KenyaSince camellia sinensis was first introduced to Kenya just over one hundred years ago, tea has risen to become this country’s most important cash crop and its single highest earning export article. In fact, Kenya is the world’s biggest producer of black tea, and in this category even ahead of India and China! This medal of mass-distinction for Kenya is the result of a highly mechanized and homogenous tea farming and CTC-processing practice – a strategy which has led to, well, a lot of tea, but little else to catch the tea-aesthete’s attention.

Until now: These days there is a quiet but phenomenal little revolution abrewin’ in Kenyan tea. Kenya’s tea growing regions are endowed with the ideal conditions for cultivation: tropical climate with high precipitation, rich volcanic red soils and long sunny days. With the help of Chinese experts brought in to teach the traditional orthodox processing methods, Kenyans are achieving some truly remarkable results with absolutely distinctive flavors and aromas – placing them firmly on the map of international tea growing nations.

kenya-teaplantation-att-nomodif_700Made in the style of the famed golden needle teas of Yunnan, our Savanna Gold conjures up vivid images of Kenya’s wild and wonderful nature reserves teeming with exotic flora and fauna. Delectable chocolate and orange shades lend the dry leaves their distinct, leopard-like appearance. This aromatic call of the wild extends to the tea’s beautifully exotic bouquet of cocoa, walnut and citrus, spiced with accents of pear, oak, aniseed and cardamom.

Raised on the slopes of Mount Kenya, in the rich and fertile stretch framed by the Mukengeria and Rundu rivers, our versatile classic black tea, Bold Utenzi, adds to Kenya’s thriving orthodox and specialty tea scene. While sharing Kenya’s usual flavor spectrum of bright, bold and fruity notes, this particular red-to-brown cup remains rich in aroma well beyond the first infusion. A delight at any brewing strength.

Life is not just black and white – or divided into shades of grey. All along the tasting spectrum of our favorite drink‘s lighter shades, estates from India and Nepal to Africa have begun to grow their own, unique white tea specialities. This particular – and award winning – first flush variant hails from Kenya and claimed an impressive 5th place at the 2011 World Tea Expo. Silver Sindano is a real testament to the country’s versatile tea scene.

image credits: Mary Beth Koeth / Neil Palmer