Tea Board of Kenya signs pact with China to boost adoption of orthodox tea processing tech in Kenya

KENYA – Fujian Starchina International Trade Co. Ltd, a subsidiary of Fuzhou Benny Tea Industries Co., has signed a cooperation agreement with the Tea Board of Kenya to support the adoption of modern technology and machinery for orthodox tea manufacturing in Kenya.

Orthodox tea refers to loose-leaf tea produced through rolling machine (traditional) methods, which involves plucking, withering, rolling, oxidation/fermentation, and drying.

In February 2023, Kenya Tea Development Agency Sales General Manager Francis Muthamia said there is high demand for orthodox teas not only in China, but also in the Middle East, Continental Europe, and the Commonwealth of Independent States countries like Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

The tea agency got a backing of KSh.800 million (US$6.43m) to increase the manufacturing of the tea brand type by  procuring orthodox tea processing machines for its allied factories.

“We have 11 factories and all of them are operating at full capacity. We have the plan to roll out another 15 factories in the next one and half years,” Muthamia said.

Ichoho highlighted that the investment is in response to the high demand for various varieties of orthodox tea, and KTDA has sourced for a market that requires over 2 million kilos annually against a local production of about 500,000 kilos.

Tea Board of Kenya technical officer James Marete confirmed that buyers are flocking to Kenya in search of orthodox tea, hence many factories are now factoring into adding another processing line that can make that type of tea.

To ensure Kenyan tea is not highly affected by the fluctuation of overseas currencies, Ichoho noted that KTDA is eying to tap a wider market on the African continent, explaining that the continent has a population of more than 1.4 billion under the policy of Free Trade Area.

“If we can open tariff and non-tariff barriers and approach individual countries diplomatically, we will be able to expand our market,” he underscored.

In the six classes of tea: black tea, green tea, purple tea, yellow tea, oolong tea, and puer tea, Kenya predominantly produces black CTC tea (almost 99 percent black tea).

While being the third largest producer of the beverage, Marete said Kenya consumes less than seven percent of its tea and exports the rest.

According to Marete, citing research done in China, the largest producer, and importer of the beverage, said the research group associated longevity in a province in China where the average life expectancy is 86 years to daily consumption of at least tea five liters of tea per person.

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