Even though Africa is relatively new to the tea growing industry, it has become one of the largest tea producing regions in the world and for a good reason. African countries have had the benefit of being able to build on the experience of other producers.
Because of this, Africa produces teas of high quality and excellent bright color which are used for blending all over the world. The tea producing countries in Africa include Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa, which produce about 32% of the world’s exports, amounting to some 424,000 tons of tea a year.
Kenya is the largest African tea producers, with a history of tea that dates back to 1903. This was when tea seeds from India were first planted on a two-acre farm. Today, Kenya has 69,000 hectares under cultivation by smallholders (shambas), under the protection of the Kenya Tea Development Authority, along with tea producing companies in both the private and public sector.
Kenya exports over 349,000 tons of tea per year, which is 22% of the world’s exports. The equatorial climate in Kenya allows tea to grow all year round. Teas from Kenya are very bright, colorful, with a reddish coppery tint and a pleasant crisp flavor.
Malawi is the pioneer grower of tea in Africa, with production that first started commercially in the 1880s in Mulanje. Today, Malawi exports over 43,000 tons annually. This equates to a 3% share of the world exports and is mainly responsible for the spread of tea cultivation in Africa.
Malawi was the first African country to adopt the cloning method of estate refurbishment. However, Malawi teas are not well known as specialty teas; they are mainly used in the blending of leading British tea brands because of their superb color and brightness.
Zimbabwe commercial tea production could only begin after the successful establishment of irrigated tea estates. With only about 50% of the usually required rainfall annually, irrigation is essential to continuous growth.
Zimbabwe now exports over 15,000 tons of tea per year. Today, tea is a “controlled” commodity in Zimbabwe so that its quality and industry growth is protected.
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