It’s no secret that I’m a pretty big dork about tea and am especially in to brewing up loose leaf tea as opposed to bags. It’s also no secret that tea from the Assam region in India is one of the most sought after types due to it being absolutely delicious, but there are very strange discrepancies in the fact that there is more Assam sold than the region can actually produce. What this means is that the tea from other regions is regularly blended with Assam a bit under the table. One of the teas often used for blending is from the fields that grow in Kenya.
There are those who gripe about how they can’t really ever get in to Kenyan tea and how it just doesn’t taste like an English Breakfast tea. I happen to absolutely love straight Kenyan tea as it has a deep, dark, earthy quality to it that is excellent when sipped slowly. To those who easily dismiss Kenya tea, ironically there is most likely a good deal of Kenyan leaves in whatever cup you’re drinking. They grow and export a lot of it and that being the case, I was lucky enough to have Becky take me on a trip up to the tea growing fields where she originally grew up some distance outside of Nairobi.
If you’ve never seen tea fields before, they’re really wonderful to look at. The tea spreads out in these verdant low-lying bushes from which the leaves are picked. As you can see above, it may look like fun for an aromatic romp through lush emerald fields, but there are two interesting things about tea fields. First, tea plants are incredibly scrubby and unfriendly. Walking through a field of them will really scratch you up. Secondly, despite the lovely smells that tea can produce when you open a fresh back of loose leaf to steep; the fields are almost completely without any smell whatsoever. If it’s raining, you’ll just smell wet earth. It seems almost impossible, but all the qualities loved about tea come in from the aging process which produces the white, green, oolong, or black variants.
Due to Nairobi Rain Traffic (yes, it deserves capitalization), it wasn’t a long visit up there and much like wine vines, once you’ve seen one tea field, you’ve kinda seen them all, even though there are a great many coffee fields mixed in. I did manage to pick up 1kg of tea for 500 Shillings or about $7 USD. That’s a pretty impressive deal and if I didn’t have 15kg of wine from Cape Town in my suitcase already, I would have gotten more. As to the flavor? It’s everything I expect in a Kenyan tea and I’m loving it as well as having gained a great new appreciation for how much hand work goes in to eat cup of tea I drink in the morning.
Of course the requisite kids posing for the camera shot. This was in front of their school which owns some of the local tea fields.