Thursday, February 24, 2011

tea time in Kenya...

Since Kenya is a major tea producer, we thought it would be a good idea to learn a little about the industry while we were there.  Our introduction to all things about growing tea happened at Kiambethu Tea Farm in Limuru. 

It was just a forty minute drive from the heart of Nairobi and located at an altitude of 7000 feet above sea level. The countryside was amazing...lush and green.  Tea needs plenty of water...and it seems there is no shortage of rain up in these hills.

The estate was built by the Mitchell family in the early 1900's.  Our tour guide was Fiona Mitchell, a granddaughter of the original owners...a very knowledgable one at that.  Her family was one of the first to venture into the tea business in Kenya...and she is now lives in the home her grandfather built.

We arrived at the estate to see monkeys scooting across the roof...and one that settled in above the porch to have a morning snack.

The lesson about tea production would have to wait...

...while we had a Colobus monkey entertaining us.

Eventually we moved along...and took a tour of the tea fields.  We learned that the tea is harvested year round...always just removing the top few leaves.  The tea is picked early in the day...and taken to market immediately.  It will be sold at the tea auction in Mombasa...the largest in the world. 

Though the fields are a solid sea of green...workers somehow make their way between the bushes to harvest the tea.  And tourists manage to squeeze their way in for a photo op.

Once our morning class tour was over...we returned to the gardens for a special treat.  Fiona had prepared lunch for her guests...and we enjoyed a lovely meal with our friends in a beautiful setting.

Here I found plants that looked like those in gardens back home...hydrangea and fuchsia.  We watched the birds flitting about and in the distance the tea fields gave way to the peaks of the Ngong Hills...the ridge along the Great Rift Valley.

Oh...and we enjoyed the tea!  I brought home my own supply of  Kiambethu Farm tea...and one of these days you can join me for tea time.


  1. Your tour was fascinating I'm sure. It's amazing to me that people just wander through the bushes picking a few leaves from the top as they walk. I imagine you'll be saving that tea for very special company!

  2. You really had some wonderful experiences Judy. Love the photo of you two in the tea fields!

  3. Now it so happens that I know you're a Timmy Horton gal all the way so imagine my surprise to find you and Elmer up to your waists in tea! :D

    What a beautiful tea farm you visited. Simply amazing. I find it interesting that no tea plants are harvested, just the tea leaves. Sort of like tipping fir trees.

    Now you must let us know if you make a permanent switch from being a coffee gal to being a tea one. I, of course, am ambidrinktous.

  4. I had a good laugh at Vee's comment!
    I can't imagine a tea field, although I don't know where I thought it came from! :)
    Your day at the tea plantation gives a whole new meaning to 'high tea'.

  5. Loved those monkeys. Did it smell like tea? I'm enjoying every day along with you. Wonderful documenting and photos.

  6. Those are beautiful shots of the green tea fields. And of course I recognized someone in the midst picking hastily your quota to take on board. I have never seen real monkeys in that setting.
    I can't wait to come over and sip on tea.

  7. Fresh off the bush?! Wow...please tell me that it was the best tea you have ever tasted! Full of antioxidants! And you can't compare tea to Tim Hortons! That's like comparing a PC to a Mac! Helllloooo?! But was it the best "PC" you've ever had?

  8. The house and setting remind me of the movie "Out of Africa," placed in Kenya, but on a coffee plantation.

    Tea is my drink, so I'd be happy to join you. Unlike Vee, I am not ambidrinktous.

  9. That tablescape in the garden looks wonderful! I imagine it was hot... and it must have felt so surreal to be having tea in a tea field in Kenya.

  10. I have just spent some time catching up on your travel posts. Your trip sounds amazing and you have done such a good job of sharing the sights and also enlightening and informing us of what life is like in other parts of the world.
    This tea farm looks like a beautiful place and your lunch looks most delicious. The monkey on the roof had me laughing.

  11. Looks like an interesting tour for sure! Thanks for sharing the pictures and experience! :)

  12. Now you have me curious. I have been checking out China and India tea, now must study up on African tea!

    I just realized that I am slightly afraid of monkeys, chimps and the likes. They are so beserk in the zoo, I would be afraid one would go off in the wild and scare me silly.

  13. I wonder if the fields of tea smelled fragrant? I can't imagine how special it was to sit there outside the plantation house for lunch... It reminded me of "Out of Africa" too, only that was the start of the coffee industry there in Kenya, and when you get a close look at the lives of the ex-pats it wasn't very pretty. I have beads from "Karen's Garden" in Nairobi, the Karen Blixen of "Out of Africa" (Isak Dinesen).

  14. What a beautiful place! Kenya seems to be blessed with a wonderful climate, unlike much of the dessert regions of Africa. I love the photo of you and Elmer amid the tea plants. I'm sure that you will always appreciate tea a little bit more from now on :)


'The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.'
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson