Thursday, July 28, 2011

Last Few Days in Kenya

On July 20th we visited the Imenti Tea Factory. Tea from this Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) managed factory fetches the highest prices in the entire Mombasa auction, so we were very curious to see just what made this tea so special. The answer? Hard work, attention to detail, and high elevation! This beautiful factory was actually commissioned by President Kibaki (Minister of Finance, at the time) in 1971. It now is Fair Trade Certified, and does processing for over 5,000 smallholders in the area. Located on the slopes of Mt. Kenya, it is over 2,000 meters above sea level. The factory operates under a motto of "continuous improvement." One example of this is the factory's impressive environmental initiatives. Imenti is the first KTDA factory to operate its own hydroelectric power generator, a project the management is very excited about. Furthermore, they've started developing their own firewood land (1,500 acres of eucalyptus) to power their tea dryers.

The next morning we visited the Kangaita Tea Factory, located almost directly on the equator. Also managed by KTDA, this factory is known for its product diversification efforts. It was the only factory we saw in Kenya that offered orthodox black tea processing, green tea (both CTC and orthodox), white tea, and even purple tea! I was amazed to find out just how much tea buyers are willing to pay for the fine white tea that comes from Kenya (hint: it's many times the market price of even the finest black teas!). Directly employing about 200 people (and serving over 6,000 smallholders), this factory processes 15 million kilograms of green leaf per year using three factory lines. An astonishing 80% of the resulting revenue goes to the tea farmers.

This is some new purple tea we had.  Basically it is a different variety of the same original tea plant, but it has been selectively bred to maximize the level of anthocyanin content, the ingredient that makes red wine health.

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