In the sprawling Kenyan highlands that fringe the Great Rift Valley, fertile volcanic red soil yields some of the finest, rich-flavoured tea in the world.
The tea plant was introduced to the East African country of Kenya in 1903 where it soon became their most significant cash crop. The abundance in quality supply is a result of ideal tropical conditions with heavy rainfall, ample sunshine, and cool, high altitude temperatures allowing for year-long harvests. Whilst the tea bushes are flush all year round, the best crops are harvested from January to March and sometimes even as far along as July.
Few tea drinkers are aware that although Kenya is the third largest producer of tea, it is in fact the largest exporter of tea. This is partly due to the fact that the teas that are predominantly exported are of the CTC variety (Cut, Tear, Curl).This method of production creates small, machine-sliced leaves that are usually destined for blending and teabags, primarily consumed by the European market. However, a very small percentage (about 5 percent) of Kenya tea leaves is produced using the orthodox method.
Orthodox-produced leaves describe loose leaf teas that have retained their full leaf and, as such, have maintained their visual and flavour integrity. Kenyan orthodox tea utilises only the premium leaves, which are generally the short, full tips of the tea plants. These result in an attractively full loose leaf tea with a complex flavour profile. Many of these high grade Kenyan teas closely resemble Assam tea leaves.
Kenya is among the smaller orthodox tea producers worldwide, accounting for only 1.3 percent of their total tea production. But compared to other countries where the considerable domestic consumption of orthodox tea ensures that most of their produce will never leave the country, Kenya exports most of its orthodox production, thus contributing to its export status.
The Tea Centre’s own Kenya Marinyn tea is a high quality orthodox Kenyan tea, graded as a GFOP (Golden, Flowery, Orange Pekoe). Between Mount Kenya (an extinct volcano and Africa’s second highest mountain) and Lake Victoria, in the region of Kericho, is where the Marinyn estate is located. Benefiting from the humidity that rises from Lake Victoria and its 2000 metre elevation above sea level, Marinyn is one of the larger, thriving tea estates in the country — spanning across 650 hectares. Along with the ideal climate, the deep, nutrient-rich, loam soils create the perfect growing conditions for this superb tea. Loam is high in organic content and moisture and allows for better drainage and infiltration of water and air, ensuring beautiful, flourishing tea bushes and a deliciously full-flavoured product.
Kenya Marinyn tea makes a wonderful alternative to the usual breakfast tea. As a fairly hearty black tea, it is perfect for those who enjoy the richness of an Assam and the bright, well-rounded notes of a Ceylon, with some connoisseurs even detecting subtle fruit notes. While only a small amount of the tea that stems from the Marinyn estate is orthodox produced, these exceptional leaves form perhaps one of the most popular single estate teas in specialty markets around the world.
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