• Kenya Ups its Investment in High Value Tea

    Kenya is investing millions in its tea sector to generate jobs and boost foreign exchange earnings. Shortly after taking office, President William Ruto directed the Ministry of Trade to increase exports of value-added tea from 5% to 50% during the next five years. In October, he announced funding for a public-private processing and packaging facility in Mombasa and approved $6 million to increase orthodox production at 10 Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) factories. Kenya Tea Board CEO Peris Mudida writes, “Tea plays a key role in the socioeconomic development of our country. However, the tea industry’s full potential in Kenya has not been fully optimized due to low-value addition and product diversification levels.” The Ruto administration intends to achieve that potential.

     Listen to the Interview

    Tea Board CEO Peris Mudida discusses Kenya’s plan to grow its brand.
    Kenya Tea Board CEO Peris Mudida
    Kenya Tea Board CEO Peris Mudida

    Kenya’s New Tea Board is Energized and Able

    By Dan Bolton

    Founded in 1950 as an independent, public body responsible for developing, promoting, and regulating Kenya’s tea industry, in 2014, the Kenya Tea Board was dissolved in favor of a single Agricultural and Food Authority (AFA) housed within the Ministry of Agriculture.

    Peris Mudida, trained in the law, was named head of the AFA’s tea directorate in 2020 after serving six years as the ministry of agriculture’s tea regulation legal services manager.

    In 2021 the newly constituted Tea Board seated elected representatives of smallholder cooperatives and associations, factory operators, large producers, tea traders, and the Kenya Tea Development Agency – a private consortium representing tea farms and factories responsible for producing 60% of the country’s tea. As CEO, Peris works closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Trade and is the official promoter of Kenya’s tea industry worldwide. She spoke to Tea Biz during the North American Tea Conference in September.

    Dan Bolton: Will you tell listeners a little about the history of the tea board and your thoughts on its reinstatement as Kenya’s tea industry promoter and regulator?

    Peris Mudida: The Tea Board of Kenya (TBK) is mandated by the government of Kenya to provide oversight over the tea sub-sector. TBK is a new institution that came into operation in 2021 after the government made a policy change and brought back the Tea Board of Kenya, which existed previously up to around 2013.

    At that point, a decision was made by the government to consolidate regulatory institutions and the crops sub-sector in Kenya. And so the tea board was converted into the Agriculture and Food Authority. However, after about seven or eight years, a decision was made to reverse that and to re-establish the Tea Board of Kenya. So, the board of Kenya is a state corporation established under the Tea Act, passed in the year 2020. Broadly, the mandate is to regulate, develop and promote the tea sub-sector in Kenya.

    Building resilient communities is one of the first principles, and to address on-the-ground challenges with these experts and partnerships that already exist but are looking for more support from corporate partners like us.

    Dan: Will you share your vision for the tea board?

    Peris: Yes. The tea board of Kenya has a very broad mandate under the Tea Act to develop the sector, promote the tea sub-sector, and regulate the tea sub-sector. Kenya exports most of what it produces. Kenya is the third-largest producer of tea in the world and the leading exporter in the world.

    We want to ensure that the tea that we supply is produced in a sustainable manner and that it gets the returns that we desire. This is especially true for the producers, the farmers who toil on the farms but are unable to make a living. Tea is also important because of the foreign exchange that it adds to our country. So, we are looking at having an industry that meets the farmers’ expectations and the other value chain players in the tea industry, including buyers and tea corporations. We have other people who are involved in the value chain; they pack the tea and sell it. So, we are looking at having everybody get a fair return for whatever they do along the tea value chain.

    Dan: Our listeners share your love of tea, and they live in every corner of the globe, including all 73 tea-producing countries. What message would you like to leave them?

    Peris: My message to the tea consumers is that tea is good. So we want you to take more and more tea and not only more tea but more Kenyan tea. Kenyan tea is good tea, as you well know. It is produced in the highlands of Kenya, where the tea is grown in a natural environment. There is no application of any sort of pesticide. And so you can be sure as you take your tea that it is good for your health, and as you consume that tea, we’d also like to ask you to remember that producers of that tea also need a fair return so that as you buy the tea, that you also pay a fair price for the tea.

    See: Ketepa Tea Packers | Kenya Tea Development Agency

    The goal is to “enable tea consumers globally to distinguish Kenya tea brands and associate Kenya tea products for their quality and authenticity.”

    – Peris Mudida

    Kenya Expands its Orthodox Tea Capability

    Kenya is the third largest tea-producing country by volume, but most of its output is commodity-grade black tea. In 2021 volume reached 537 million kilos. Only a tenth of that total is orthodox processed whole and broken-leaf tea.

    Exports totaled 558,925 million kilos last year. In 2021 tea exports topped $1.36 billion (Ksh135 billion), which was 22% of Kenya’s foreign exchange earnings. The main export markets are Pakistan, Egypt, the United Kingdom, Sudan, and the UAE. Exports to the US are on the rise at 3,535 metric tons. Canada imported 1,086 metric tons of Kenyan tea in 2021.

    Tea exports account for 92% of total tea production. Domestic tea drinkers consume the remaining 8%.

    Seventeen factories are licensed to produce orthodox and specialty tea. Approximately 31.3 million kilos are grown west of the Great Rift Valley, and 15 million kilos are grown east of the rift (mainly by smallholders).

    In October, President William Ruto announced that the government would construct a modern common-use facility in Dongo Kundu to process and package tea. The public-private venture will add value to commodity offerings and expand the availability of orthodox black tea.

    Simultaneously the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) asked the government for Ksh800 million ($6 million) to expand production lines at 10 of its 12 orthodox tea factories. KTDA currently produces five million kilos of high-value specialty tea. White teas, for example, bring as much as Ksh7000 ($58) per kilogram. Purple teas are auctioned for Ksh2400 ($20) per kilo compared to CTC (crush, tear, curl) teas that sell for Ksh270 ($2.25) per kilo.

    Kenya sees opportunities in two markets. First, Africa’s new free agreement encourages neighboring countries to purchase packaged teas for domestic consumption. Kenya recently sent a large shipment of its Ketepa Pride national brand to Ghana, a first under the African Free Trade Continental Area (AfCFTA) pact. Kenya named Morocco, Mauritius, and Tunisia as potential trade partners.

    Expanding orthodox production also enables Kenya to compete better with Sri Lanka, which has seen a 20% decline in the output of premium Ceylon teas. Sri Lanka black teas sell for more than double the price of bulk black teas from Kenya. To accelerate production, KTDA increased subsidies reducing the cost of fertilizer from Ksh6,000 to Ksh3,500 with a target of between Ksh2,500 and Ksh300 per metric ton.

    Mudida says the Tea Board of Kenya is collaborating with state and non-state actors to develop and promote a strong Kenya tea brand. The goal is to “enable tea consumers globally to distinguish Kenya tea brands and associate Kenya tea products for their quality and authenticity,” she said.

    Kenya is not abandoning bulk production, writes Mudida. “We wish to clarify that it is government policy to upscale tea value addition progressively to enhance tea growers’ earnings. The government has not banned the sale of tea in bulk,” she said.

    Mudida anticipates a solid return on investment. 

    “We project that through these incentives, Kenya’s tea industry could generate about 80,000 new jobs and increase annual industry returns substantially,” she said.

    Kenya Tea Board CEO Peris Mudida agrees to coordinate Tea Masters Cup competitions

    Expanding the Brand: Tea Masters Cup

    The Tea Masters Cup (TMC), an international tournament for tea makers, announced the Tea Board of Kenya (TBK) will coordinate the country’s tea industry competitions to ensure smooth integration of the local tournaments into the international TMC competitions.

    Kenya is the first African country to join TMC.

    In a joint press statement, TBK CEO Peris Mudida and TMC Chairman Ramaz Chanturiya said the competitions are an important strategy to promote the tea profession, trade, consumption, and collaboration with relevant stakeholders both nationally and globally.

    TMC and TBK announced the partnership and launch of the competition during the International Tea Day Celebrations in May in Kericho.

    Chanturiya called the agreement an important milestone as TMC Kenya competitions will bring together thousands of experienced, creative, professional, and passionate tea makers of different tea cultures into a single authentic international competition system.

    The country looks forward to showcasing her finest premium teas and finest tea masters and look forward to TMC supporting Kenya adopt innovative approaches to global tea collaboration, enhanced tea quality, and trade,” write Mudida and Chanturiya.

    TMC was founded in 2013 and involves people engaged in tasting, preparing, and serving tea and tea drinks by professionals and amateurs in four different categories: tea preparation, tea pairing, tea mixology, and tea tasting.

    During the past decade, TBK has organized the Tea Recipe Competition to create awareness and boost tea consumption locally, with a progressive increase in tea consumption by locals witnessed from 2011 to 2021.

    “Tea Recipe Competition attracted Kenyans from all walks of life and resulted in a boost of local tea consumption from 20 million kilograms in 2011 to 38 million kilograms in 2021,” according to the joint release.

    Link to share this post with your colleagues

    Signup and receive Tea Biz weekly in your inbox.

    Never miss an episode
  • Tea Biz Podcast | Episode 27

    Tea Biz Podcast Logo

    Listen on your favorite player

    Hear the Headlines

    | New Criteria Proposed for Differentiating Specialty Tea
    | Walmart Tea is now 100% Certified by Rainforest Alliance
    | Kenya Sets KTDA Tea Auction Price Minimums

    Seven-minute Tea News Recap
    Tea Price Report
    India Tea Price Watch | July 17

    Assam’s new state government continues to woo the tea industry with new schemes, the latest is that workers on tea gardens will be included in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which will benefit them in winter when the gardens are not producing tea.  Read more…


    Tea Biz this week travels to London for a chat with David Veal, Executive Director of the European Speciality Tea Association. Veal describes the association’s new perspective and new definition of what makes specialty tea special.

    … and then to northern India where Aravinda Anantharaman visits a tea café with heart.

    David Veal, executive director, European Speciality Tea Association

    Differentiating Specialty Tea

    By Dan Bolton

    A rigid definition of what makes tea special has eluded the industry. Professionals understand excellence in specific styles. After 45 years of competitions there is consensus on the qualities that make an outstanding Dong Ding oolong as judged by the Lugu Tea Farmers’ Association in Taiwan. In France, the AVPA has demonstrated skill in determining the gastronomic qualities in tea that please the local palate. The International Specialty Tea Association posts a set of universal standards such as pluck and leaf quality. Consumers mainly differentiate by price.

    The European Speciality Tea Association recently announced a definition that is more aspirational than dogmatic. ESTA Executive Director David Veal explains how the association adopted this approach and why it will prove helpful. 

    Read more…

    David Veal on what makes specialty tea special.
    Staff at the La Gravitea café L to R, in the front, Suraj Thakur, Chandra Prabha, Nandita. In the middle, Monika Mahato, Amit Kumar Singh, Amit Lahari. Back row, Shakuntala Hansda, Nikit Sharma and Navin Kumar

    For the Love of Tea

    By Aravinda Anantharaman

    La Gravitea café is a remarkable tea café with hundreds of selections of fine teas inspired by the travels of founder Avinash Dugar but aside from specialty teas, what make La Gravitea special is that the young staff are hard-working graduates of the local school for the hearing-impaired. Learn more…

    Aravinda Anantharaman takes a virtual tour of the La Gravitea cafe

    A New Definition of Specialty Tea

    By Dan Bolton

    The European Speciality Tea Association this week presented a comprehensive new definition of specialty tea. The 450-word definition seeks to “encapsulate the spirit of speciality tea” writes ESTA president Nigel Melican. The essence is that those involved in producing specialty tea “aspire to attain excellence from bush to cup” says Melican. Four aspects cited in the definition seek to differentiate speciality tea from commodity.

    These include transparency that makes know the supplier, location, production dates, and processing method; Physical characteristics such as size, shape, and appearance of the wet and dry leaf; sensory properties including color, clarity, flavor, aroma and mouthfeel; and the mitigation of environmental impacts including support for biodegradable packaging.

    The definition describes specialty teas as “hand-made.”

    The effort involved stakeholders at every level, but the messaging is directed to consumers.

    “We believe that the consumer needs to be inspired from the moment they enjoy the aroma, liquor, and taste of the tea and celebrate in the plant’s personality, the origin of the tea, the care that has been taken in the processing and brewing of it; this being a speciality moment,” reads the association announcement.

    See the definition and supporting documents at www.specialityteaeurope.com

    Biz Insight – Forty years ago consumers in the US and Europe tossed aside 25-cent cups of stale, anonymous, percolated, and warmed-over drip brew in favor of carefully selected, roasted, and barista-prepared single-origin coffee and specialty blends.  The additional billions spent on $4 espresso drinks and premium beans revitalized the industry.

    Will the same be true for specialty tea? David Veal, executive director of the European Speciality Tea Association, discusses the reasoning behind the new definition in this interview.

    David Veal on what makes specialty tea special.
    Walmart Tea now 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified Sustainable

    Walmart Tea is Certified by Rainforest Alliance

    By Dan Bolton

    Walmart announced this week that all its Great Value Brand black and green teas will be 100% certified sustainable by the Rainforest Alliance.

    “This is good news not just for Walmart, but also for farmers, and the future of tea,” writes Silvia Azrai [AZ RAY] Kawas, Walmart vp of Private Brands Food. She explained that Rainforest Alliance helps ensure that three pillars of sustainability are met: social, environmental and economic.

    “Our Great Value Brand black and green teas will remain affordable, high-quality drinks, with an added bonus: Each box you buy makes a measurable impact on the life of a smallholder farmer,” according to the company.

    Biz Insight – In 2007 when Unilever, the world’s largest tea supplier, committed to Rainforest Certification at Kericho, Kenya it signaled to commodity suppliers that to remain competitive they needed to invest in environmentally-friendly cultivation at origin. A consumer-driven embrace of sustainable processing, packaging, and waste reduction soon unfolded, making the entire supply chain more efficient. In 2016 Walmart committed to sustainably source 20 commodities by 2025 including tea. Now Walmart, the world’s largest tea retailer, has extended that commitment to the terminus of the supply chain.

    Kenya Sets Tea Auction Price Minimums

    The Kenyan government withdrew tea valued at 1 billion Kenyan shillings (about $9 million in US dollars) at the Mombasa Auction because prices failed to meet a controversial $2.43 per kilo minimum reserve price. 

    “We made a drastic but necessary decision with regard to sale of teas at the Mombasa tea auction,” Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya told the local press.

    He said the government has plenty of storage capacity and will continue withdrawing tea if prices do not meet the minimum rate.

    The decision angered traders who simply purchased tea on offer from other African countries leaving 8 million kilos of Kenyan tea idled in local warehouses. A spokesman for the East African Tea Traders Association said that when sellers set prices for themselves, instead of relying on free market fluctuations, there is “no guarantee that buyers will follow that lead.” Production far outstrips demand and as such, prices have taken a hit. This is not an auction problem,” said EATTA’s managing director Edward Mudibo.

    Secretary Munya said the government is determined raise the price at auction. “We believe we can sustain the situation as we have enough reserves,” he told Citizen TV.

    Biz Insight – It is unclear in this face-off whether tea traders or the Kenyan government will be the first to blink. Nine tea producing countries sell their tea at the Mombasa auction and independent producers are free to ignore the Kenya Tea Development Agency reserve price, but none can rival output of 620,000 smallholders supplying KTDA’s 54 factories.

    Traders must also weigh the fact that tea exports are down from India, a bidding rival. The Sri Lanka auction at Colombo has sufficient volume of tea but prices, at an average $3.97 per kilo for low-grown tea, are significantly higher than the recent 5- and 10-year lows seen in Mombasa. Tea prices at the Mombasa auction have averaged $1.80 per kilo so far this year, dipping to $1.65 per kilo, significantly below the estimated $2 per kilo cost of production.

    – Dan Bolton

    Upcoming Events

    August 2021
    Beijing International Tea Expo, Beijing China
    August 27-30, 2021 | Beijing Exposition Center

    Share this episode with your friends in tea.



    Avoid the chaos of social media and start a conversation that matters. Subtext’s message-based platform lets you privately ask meaningful questions of the tea experts, academics and Tea Biz journalists reporting from the tea lands. You see their responses via SMS texts which are sent direct to your phone. Visit our website and subscribe to Subtext to instantly connect with the most connected people in tea.

    Subscribe to Subtext

    Subscribe and receive Tea Biz weekly in your inbox.

Verified by MonsterInsights