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Any Quality Kenyan Teas?

From what I understand, most teas grown in Kenya are black and used for CTC and bags. But some I have heard are grown on small estates.I will be going to neighboring Tanzania in mid December and wondered if I might try or bring back some good quality Kenyan tea while in Kilimanjaro or Arusha. Anyone know of any tea to look for?

11 Replies
Nicole said

That is an excellent question. I am going in June and have been searching in vain for tea farms to tour while there. They all seem to be in Kenya or the south edge of the country. I’m very interested to see the responses here and I’d love to hear about your trip after you return!

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Just got back from Tanzania and I must say that finding good tea to drink while in Africa was not easy. Even in the better lodges, hotels and stores, all they seemed to have was teabags. Afri Tea and Coffee blenders sells several lines such as the Kilimanjaro Brand English Breakfast and Earl Grey tea bags and African Pride line. Chai Bora Limited sells Tanzania Highlands Organic Tea bags.

It wasn’t until my last day there (and of all places, at the Kilimanjaro Airport) that I could find any loose tea sold at all. That was a tin of African Pride Tea, Gold Blend put out by the aforementioned Afri Tea and Coffee Blenders. Unfortunately, when I got home today and opened the tin, it was loose CTC tea!

Ironically, the only decent African Tea I’ve been able to find is from a small store in Schenectady, NY, Divinitea. While visiting a friend one day and talking to the owner she told me that they had brought some Kenyan tea in specially for one of their customers and sold me a small amount. It is true “full leaf” black tea (as much as any black tea is anyway.) It’s quite robust and flavorful. They also sell online at www.divinitea.com, but the Kenyan tea is not listed in their catalogue so you will have to ask specifically for it.

BTW, bad as the tea situation is in Tanzania, it is far better than for coffee. Tanzanian coffee is quite delicious and expensive here in the US. However, it turns out that almost all of the premium coffee produced there is for export only. Even at the best hotels and lodges when you ask for coffee you are served powdered coffee mixed with boiling water. I was traveling with two confirmed coffee drinkers and the only place they got real brewed coffee was the two nights we stayed at the Plantation Lodge, just outside of Karatu, near the Ngorongoro crater. The Lodge is situated right next door to the Blackburn Estate Coffee Plantation and not only do they brew real coffee for guests, but they also sell packages of Blackburn unground beans at a quite reasonable $12 per pound

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thank you for your efforts and your update. I have recently found and fallen in love with most of the teas from Majani Teas, which specializes in Kenyan Teas
Website: http://www.majaniteas.com/

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Majani looks excellent, Kasumi, and I especially like the birds, many of which I saw on Safari over the border in Tanzania. I will stop by at one of the stores listed in Manhattan where they say that their tea is available.

Their site though does hint at what I found myself: that the best loose leaf Kenyan and Tanzanian teas are produced by small farmers and are only generally available in export markets. In country you will generally only find lower quality CTC tea bags.

yes, not having traveled to the country, I only have found this through export.

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I have had some tasty ones that Butiki, Mark T. Wendell, and a few others. I’m sure if you drop them a note they can tell you more about the estates and regions – both companies are VERY helpful! Both have been loose leaf :) I have tried some bagged as well. They were solid black teas for bagged. I was pretty surprised :)

Once you get back I would love to hear more about your adventure!

Simpson & Vail have some good ones, too!

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Thanks, TEB, I may check those two out. To be honest, at this point I’m pretty much of the opinion that African teas (in general) are less nuanced and more uni-deminsional than blacks from India or China, but that their depth adds a lot to blends like English or Irish Breakfast. Like the bass parts of Baroque Music, you might not be inclined to listen to them alone without the middle and highs of the melody and counterpoint played on other instruments, but where their presence in the composition really adds so much depth and resonance.

Of course, we were really in Africa for Safari, not tea or coffee, and so I may have missed a lot of tea that was around and I didn’t get to see. Most of our meals were in tented camps in the Serengeti. But my two daughters are serious coffee drinkers and I have a passion for tea (my son drinks neither). So whereever we went, we always asked about both and tried whatever we could get into our hands (and cups). And whenever we drove through a larger town like Arusha, or on the nights we spent at a more traditional lodge near Ngorongoro, we’d ask about coffee or tea.

The tea plantations in Tanzania and Kenya are in different parts of the countries thant he game viewing areas, so we were only able to get what was more widely available, not what they raised on individual tea estates.

I would disagree about African teas being less nuanced as I have been seeing some amazing teas come out of Africa recently. I’ve tasted quite a few from Kenya and Malawi that were very impressive. I highly recommend checking out this one: http://steepster.com/teas/butiki-teas/22330-royal-golden-safari.

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Undoubtedly you’re right, Butiki Teas. Had I ever seen or perhaps sampled any African teas before which looked like the ones you sell on your site, I probably wouldn’t have gotten that impression.

But even you must admit that there is not a lot of varietal, estate grown African tea commonly available for retail sale in stores or for that matter, even online. So perhaps I should have said that the majority of African tea sold is and more suited for filler and mixing.

I have definitely tasted a great deal of “filler” African teas but I’m still seeing a lot of great ones out there (more than we would ever even be able to sell) though I would tend to agree with you.

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