Tea is Kenya’s biggest export earner, having earned 140 billion shillings for the country last year.
Despite Kenya being one of the world’s biggest exporters of black tea, local tea industry players are beginning to diversify into more unique varieties of tea to get better returns.
Metropol Tv recently toured Gitugi tea factory in Nyeri county a factory that has diversified into the processing of specialty teas and takes us through how such teas are made and what makes them tick.
The factory, which has been in the business of processing tea for the last 41 years, has a capacity to process 3 million kilos of tea each month. It is here that i get to experience how this popular beverage is made.
Upon arriving at the processing factory, green leaves are first weighed to determine how much a farmer will be paid for their produce. Tea farmers are paid up to 100 shillings per kilo of green leaf delivered.
The leaves are then conveyed into a tank to remove some of the moisture. This is where the distinction between black tea – technically known as CTC tea, and the orthodox tea begins.
The orthodox tea will be withered to moisture content of between 50-55 % while the black tea will require a 65%. A maximum of 500 kilogrammes of the now withered leaves are then sent into this rolling table to be rolled in to smaller sizes; a process that takes 30 minutes.
On the other side, the CTC leaves will instead be cut and squeezed. What follows is the separation of the rolled leaves. Leaves that will not have rolled to the recommended size are classified as bulks that will require further rolling.
The rolled leaves that are at this point now called fines will be move on this conveyer belt onto this continuous fermenting unit for fermentation process that takes about 3 hours. Kenya produces about 1.5 million kilos of orthodox tea.
At this stage we learn that the Kenya Tea Development Agency has embarked on encouraging tea factories to diversify into processing specialty tea because of its stable prices in the tea market.
The orthodox tea will then be subjected to drying in this chain drier to avoid further fermentation. It is then graded depending on the size of the final particles the processed tea is then packaged into between 34-79kg bags before it hits the market and you enjoy your cup of tea.