Tea in Kenya

Tea in Kenya

Tea in Kenya

In Kenya, tea is called Swahili Chai in the local language. Chai comes from the Chinese word cha, meaning tea, only pronounced in two different Chinese dialects. The Swahili word Chai is taken from the Arabic because there is an Arabic-African mixed culture on the Kenyan coast.

Beginning of tea cultivation in Kenya

Tea cultivation in Kenya is officially recorded as being in 1903, when a British immigrant family tried their luck at making tea to prosper.

In 1903 Kenya had been a British protectorate for a number of years and English families began to settle in the Kenyan highlands.

Said family hit a gold vein, because the growing conditions were good. There was a lot of precipitation and sunlight. The average temperatures of 24° make life pleasant.

The ever green Highlands made a superb cup of tea.

The tea plantations grew rapidly and the tea was soon being planted en masse, processed and exported and shipped to England

Locals themselves were not allowed to grow tea ( and coffee ) in colonial times and were only the pickers.

Tea through the ages

Independence came 50 years later and the country was redistributed.

The small farmers joined together and founded cooperatives. These cooperatives settled across the two great Kenyan highland plateaus of the famous Rift Valley, which stretches from Ethiopia to Mozambique. There are growing areas around Mount Kenya in central Kenya and west of the Rift Valley.

In contrast to China, there was no culture of self-processing. So a family or small groups that process the tea themselves, since tea processing requires a certain amount of know-how. Because after independence there were no outlets to cover the supply within Kenya, the whole process was taken over by the Kenyan KTDA (Kenya Tea Development Association), a governmental organization that regulated the tea market, managed the cooperatives and marketed the tea outside the country. Outside of this system there are also a handful of larger companies.

The tea exchange in Mombasa is now the second most important tea exchange in the world and Kenya is at times the world's largest exporter of black tea. Tea sales averaged $573,626,750 from 2012-2019. Mainly black tea is grown and exported, typified as CTC ( Cut Tear Curl ). These are tea leaves that are formed into small balls and sold loosely or in tea bags. Long orthodox tea leaves, green, white and purple tea are only available in small quantities. In summary, the following varieties are grown in Kenya:

  • Black Tea CTC
  • Black Orthodox Tea
  • Green tea
  • White tea
  • purple tea