Kenya is the 3rd largest producer and world leader in exports of tea. Of note, the second-largest tea auction house in the world is located in Mombasa, Kenya. Kenya primarily produces black tea, but also produces a very small amount of green tea. Kenyan tea is cultivated from clonal varieties.
In Kenya, tea is grown on both sides of the Great Rift Valley, an ecological divide that cuts Kenya in half, right down the middle. The gardens on the western side bring the largest quantity of tea to market in most years. The Kapchorua estate is located on the western rift, high in the eastern slopes of the Nandi hills. Because of the warm climate, tea bushes flush all year in Kenya. They do not have a dormant period; however, the best tea is plucked in the earliest part of the year, from January to early March, and again at the end of the June into July.
Tea is the largest subsector of the agricultural community, employing 3 million or 10% of all workers in Kenya, and the principal cash crop for foreign exchange. In recent news, the price for top Kenyan tea fell by almost 8%. (29 January 2014, Reuters) Kenya is the recognized leader in CTC technology and uses its expertise to establish status in the world market and tea blends of many internationally-known tea companies. Kenyan tea is rarely found unblended in the United States. Kenyan tea is used to impart flavor, strength, and vigor to a tea blend, most of which is in many proprietary blends from England, Ireland, and Scotland.
Of note, Kapchorua’s green teas are produced using a technique that was developed and perfected on the estate itself. The unique process differs from that of almost every other producer in the world in that the fresh leaf is not steamed or fried prior to curing. Instead, after withering (a process by which the leaf is laid out in troughs and flushed with air), the tea is put through a CTC machine cut, tear and curl that does literally that. After the CTC machine, the shredded leaf is allowed to sit for approximately three minutes in order for slight fermentation to occur and then fed into a large dryer for final curing. The resulting green tea is consistently full-bodied and highly flavored. (Notably absent is the grassiness associated with most green teas.) Kapchorua’s high quality is renowned throughout the tea world and has led to the estate being recognized by both the Fair Trade Labeling Organization and Ethical Tea Partnership for outstanding production.