The importance of Kenya in the tea industry

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Kenya might not be the first country to pop into your mind when you think about tea, but the truth is that Kenya is one of the largest producers and exporters of tea in the world, surpassed only by India and China. Tea first arrived in Kenya, the town of Limuru to be exact, in 1903 through European settlers. The cultivation of the leaves began in the 1920s. Over the years it has grown into one of the more prominent industries in the country, making up 26% percent of all exports and 4% of the national GDP.

Because of the tropical climate in most of the country, the majority of tea producing regions are found in in areas with higher elevation, where rainfall and low temperatures are more common. Combined with the volcanic soil and abundant sunshine, tea is grown in Kenya year-round.

Dawn in Kenia

About 60 percent of Kenya’s tea production is controlled by the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) making it the largest single producer in the world. Even so, most of Kenya’s tea production is carried out by small-scale farmers, over half a million, who work farms of just an acre or even less. The Kenyan tea industry is particularly known for their black tea blends that supplies large portion of the European market. Approximately 90 percent of the teas are processed in factories through the CTC (Cut-Tear-Curl) method and are intended to other compliment tea bag blends with a robust taste.

In recent years however, more orthodox (natural, hand-made) teas have risen in popularity all over the tea drinking world and as a result, more attention is given to specialty teas in Kenya as well. One example is Milima tea, loosely translated into “high place” in Swahili, that is grown at an altitude of 6000 feet or higher.

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