Stories About Tea welcomes our first international guest writer, who will contribute once a month! Meet Bente from Tanzanian Kilimanjaro Specialty Tea, who specializes in manufacturing tea at the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. Read our introduction interview!
Who are you and what do you do within the tea industry?
My name is Bente Luther- Medoc and I am a coffee farmer on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. I kept on wondering why there are no tea plantations on the Kilimanjaro as the conditions are quite perfect. So I decided to give it a try eight years ago, when I began to plant my tea garden. We are growing and processing orthodox artisanal teas.
When did your passion for tea start and how?
It started when my small tea garden started producing the first leaves. And I began experimenting the orthodox processing, all with knowledge from the internet. At that time there were hardly videos around. I tried and tasted and repeated the process until I liked the taste and the leaf appearance.
Can you tell what you do at Tanzanian Kilimanjaro Specialty Tea? I am the founder and the general manager. We are very small though, only 5 employees. I am also the creative mind behind the operation
How did Tanzanian Kilimanjaro Specialty Tea start and how big are you now?
We started off just me in my kitchen with a small fruit dryer. And now we have 5 permanent employees and 10 non permanent employees who come once a week, when we are plucking. We started off from 0 and are now producing 100 kg dry leaf per year from our own tea garden and 1 ton of dry leaf from a nearby mountain range: Usambara.
Can you describe what is so special about the Kilimanjaro for growing tea?
Mount Kilimanjaro has a very good micro climate and is green all year long. The volcanic soil is rich and fertile. But despite Tanzania being a Tea Producing Country, there was absolutely no tea production on Kilimanjaro. Since we are producing high quality coffee, I could not resist trying tea. The leaf is made in a small tea manufacture using African traditional earthenware and I am working on finding more and more our African style.
What are your standout teas?
We produce several teas and all have their own flavour. One standout tea is called ‘Experience the taste of Kilimanjaro’. This tea is grown under bright blue skies in our garden at the foothills of snow caped Mt Kilimanjaro and kissed daily by the African sun, our teas are lovingly handmade using traditional African earthenware. From the time you open the packet, through brewing your tea and then drinking it – experience a journey in tea like no other. Savour the unique aroma and taste of each tea and enjoy multiple brews that take you on a journey of tea discovery.
What do you do at Tanzanian Kilimanjaro Specialty Tea in January regarding growing your teas?
We are actually heading for a month of making trials: we are working on finding our African style using African earthenware and natural materials. We have had busy times in coffee and no time for trials. So now the new year begins with the creation of new teas.
What is your personal favorite tea and why?
My personal favorite is our hand shaken Oolong. It’s so beautifully rolled and shaped and is absolutely stunning in taste.
Is there a favorite food pairing with a tea you would like to recommand?
I would say our ‘Kilimanjaro Green Tea – Steamed Pearls’. You make it with 2 gram (one level tablespoon) and 2 minutes water off the boil 280ml. The leaf is gorgeous, carefully hand rolled gems of green, shiny with tip. Upon brewing, these pearls open up into lively whole leaf creating anticipation of enjoyment. In a cup this tea greets you with a soft rose gold colour with the gentle and tantalising hints of fresh apricot in taste and aroma. Enjoy this tea with light cakes like chiffon cake, or Swiss roll.
What is the tea culture like in Tanzania?
Tanzanians are tea drinkers. But largly to the fact that Tanzania produces almost only CTC, there is no culture for speciality teas. It is chai that is being drunk in the country.