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African Tea accounts for 12% of the world’s total output. In 2016 alone, the continent produced 680,000 metric tonnes of it. However, most Tea-cultivating countries do not drink their own produce. They instead export it, some of which reaches the nurturing hands of The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company. We then pack it fresh to order, thereby ensuring quality and consistency.
The people of Africa have known about the Camellia sinensis (Tea) plant for hundreds of years, though it took them a while to start growing it. During the 14th century, Moroccan scholar Ibn Battuta and his contemporary, the Somali explorer Sa’id of Mogadishu, both wrote of Chinese Tea customs. Whether they brought any home following their travels overseas remains unknown.
Records suggest that trade in Tea took place between merchants and African leaders through much of the Chinese Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The continent’s northern regions later found a love for a blend of Green and Peppermint Tea, creating what we know today as Moroccan Mint Tea. Then came the age of Empires as European countries sought to control Tea production so as to reduce dependence on China.
Plantations appeared in several British colonies in the latter half of the 19th century. A Scotsman named Henry Brown, having acquired experience in the Ceylon Tea industry, played an instrumental role in establishing African Tea cultivation in Malawi. Over 50,000 people work in the sector today, 51% of whom are women. The nation is now Africa’s second-largest producer.
Tea from Kenya nevertheless remains the most widespread, accounting for around 50% of UK imports. It was a British settler called G.W.L Caine who first planted it in 1903, albeit for ornamental purposes. The commercial potential of Kenya Tea wasn’t recognised until another Scotsman, Arnold Butler McDonell, started growing it in 1918. This country is not only Africa’s largest producer but the third-largest globally.
Before Kenya Tea, there was Tanzania Tea - specifically, one year before, in 1902. German settlers planted it in what was then known as German East Africa, at the Agricultural Research Station at Amani, Tanga. By 1904, the Tea had spread out to Kyimbila, Rungwe district, in the Mbeya region. Since its independence from colonial powers, Tanzania has made a name for itself in the industry.
African Tea didn’t arrive in Rwanda until 1952. What it lacks in age, though, it makes up for in its extraordinary character and charm. The Tea-growing conditions found here are almost perfect because of the rich, fertile, volcanic soils and temperate climate. The fact that 72% of cultivation occurs in mountainous areas with high elevations likewise ensures exceptional quality.
South African Tea is a little special because the vast majority of it isn’t “Tea” in the conventional sense. When people think of Loose Leaf Tea in South Africa, they think of Rooibos. This is a Herbal Tea found exclusively in the Cederberg region of the Western Cape Province. Once the leaves undergo processing, there are two primary types: Red Rooibos and Green Rooibos Tea.
The former, when brewed, offers a gentle sweetness with notes of nuts, honey and caramel. The latter, similar to “regular” Green Tea, retains much of its natural profile, boasting a deliciously light flavour with mellow notes and a refreshing finish. Additionally, due to the herb’s versatility, you can get Rooibos Tea from South Africa, which can be just about anything.
You know the facts about African Tea. All that’s left is to buy it from The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company. Our family-run business was established in 1982. We specialise in Tea varieties from around the world, including, of course, several countries in Africa. Whichever one you decide upon, be it Kenya Tea Bags or Vanilla Rooibos, you’ve undoubtedly chosen well.
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