The first legal instrument to govern the production of tea in Kenya was enacted as the Tea Ordinance, 1934 (No. 46 of 1934). This Ordinance was revised by the Tea Ordinance, 1948 (No. 52 of 1948) which became effective on 15th August, 1948. The objectives of the Tea Ordinance, 1948 were to provide for the control of the production of tea in the Colony. The institution of the Directorate of Agriculture was responsible for controlling the production of tea by issuing licences and permits to farmers until 1950 when the Tea Board of Kenya was established under the Tea Act (Cap 343) to regulate the industry.

By the time Africans started planting tea among other cash crops, between 1956 and 1959, European farmers were already experienced in the cultivation of tea. In 1957, the first smallholder tea factory was set up in Ragati, (Nyeri County) and was run through a management agreement with multinational tea companies.

To promote the cultivation of cash crops amongst the smallholder growers, the Special Crops Development Authority (SCDA) was formed under the Agriculture Act in 1960.

In 1964, SCDA was replaced by the establishment of the Kenya Tea Development Authority (KTDA) under the Agriculture Act (Cap 318) Section 91, Legal notice No. 42, replacing. The Authority took over management of smallholder tea from multinational tea companies. Sessional Paper No.2 of 1999 on the liberalization and restructuring of the tea industry made recommendations on privatization of the Kenya Tea Development Authority (KTDA) and modalities to strengthen the Tea Board of Kenya to enable it under take its mandated role as the main regulatory body. In 2000, Kenya Tea Development Authority (KTDA) was privatized through the formation of Kenya Tea Development Agency Ltd. (KTDA) under the Companies Act CAP 486. Privatization was also meant to achieve improvement in the management of the tea factories by allowing farmers to play a rightful role in decision-making and attain adequate processing capacity with a view to bridging the gap between takings of the smallholder and large estates at the farm level. In 2009, Kenya Tea Development Agency Ltd. changed its name to Kenya Tea Development Agency Holdings Ltd.

In 2014, the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) was established under Section 3 of the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) following the operationalization of the Crops Act 2013 that repealed the Acts of parliament establishing the Tea Board of Kenya amongst other state corporations such as Kenya Coconut Development Authority; Kenya Sugar Board; Coffee Board of Kenya; Horticultural Crops Development Authority; Pyrethrum Board of Kenya; Cotton Development Authority; and Kenya Sisal Board. According to Sec. 10 of the 1st Schedule of the AFA Act 2013, the respective former institutions become Directorates of the Authority. To date, the regulatory function of the industry is under the AFA-Tea Directorate.