Legends shroud the origin of tea. One version popular in China says that tea was discovered accidentally in 2737 BC, when leaves from a nearby bush fell into water that a Chinese emperor, Shen Nung, was boiling for drinking. Ever since, a tea-drinking habit has spread throughout the world in the past 5,000 years, making tea the most popular beverage after water. The Japanese first embraced tea-drinking and Dutch traders took it to Europe from where tea spread to the European colonies and the rest of the world.
In Kenya, the first tea seedlings (Camellia sinensis) were introduced by the white settlers in 1903 in Limuru (Kiambu County) on experimental basis. Some of these tea bushes have grown into large trees, forming historical feature on what is now Unilever’s Mabroukie Tea Estate. Although few private farmers established small tea gardens in Limuru and Kericho, commercial cultivation of tea in Kenya began in 1924 and remained an exclusive preoccupation of the colonialists until 1956 when African growers were allowed to start planting tea.
Tea growing in Kenya
Tea is grown in the highlands located within the West and East of Rift and on higher altitude of between 1,500 metres and 2,700 metres above Sea Level. The highlands are spread across 19 tea-growing counties that include Nakuru, Narok, Kericho, Bomet, Nyamira, Kisii, Kakamega, Bungoma, Vihiga, Nandi, Elgeyo Marakwet, Trans-Nzoia, Kiambu, Murang’a, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Embu, Tharaka-Nithi, and Meru.
The growing conditions for tea include tropical volcanic red soils and favorable weather patterns such as well-distributed rainfall of between 1200 mm to 1400 mm per annum. Unlike other countries, Kenya produces tea year round with minimal seasonal variations in quantity owing to its location along the equator.
Social economic importance of Kenyan Tea
The tea industry makes an important contribution to the Kenyan economy. Tea is among leading foreign exchange earner contributing about 23% of total foreign exchange earnings and 2% of the Agricultural GDP. Annually, the country produces over 450 million Kgs of tea, which earn the country over K.sh 120 Billion in export earnings, and 22.0 Billion on local sales. The industry supports about 5.0 million people directly and indirectly while an estimated 650,000 tea growers depend on tea making the industry one of the leading sources of livelihood in the country.
Kenyan tea Industry Practices
Kenya tea is renowned world-wide for its quality and safety due to adherence to the industry adherence to good agricultural practices (no pesticides or agro-chemicals); good husbandry practices and selection of high quality varieties; skilful processing practices (no additives, preservatives or artificial colouring); continuous improvements due to investment in modern technology and R&D; commitment to Global and National Food Safety standards (ISO, HACCP, KS1927) as well as compliance with environmental and social market requirements (ETP, Fair Trade e.t.c);
Kenyan Tea Attributes
Naturally grown (Free from Chemicals and Pesticides), processed with No additives and has unique Flavour.
Reasons Kenyan tea is sought by many tea blenders and consumers world-wide!!!!!