Experts warn quality of Kenyan tea falling as Rwanda surges

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Players in the tea sector have raised concern over the decline in the quality of Kenyan tea as produce from Rwanda gains popularity.

The researchers, marketers and brokers blamed the situation to poor storage in factories, farmers under applying or over applying fertilisers and low plucking standards, among other reasons.

The acting director of Tea Research Institute John Bore said Rwanda has an advantage over Kenya because they grow most of their produce in high altitude areas of about 3,000 metres above sea level.

“Plucking frequency is a key factor that is messing up our tea quality. The shorter the plucking frequency like around seven days, you will be able to maintain high quality standards,” Dr Bore advised.

He noted the best temperature for tea production is 160C.

“If you have the wrong raw material, the factory processor is not going to improve the quality of that particular product. We need to plan ahead,” he said.

The expert also blamed the declining quality to climate change.

The director, Tea Association, Samuel Otieno, said the quality of tea from Rwanda is fast rising.

“For some time now, the quality of Kenyan tea has been steadily declining. The country is losing the leading producer of high quality in the world status,” Otieno said. He noted last year, a panel of judges came up with only 35 good cups that were outstanding out of 100 samples.

Diversification to speciality areas

“We have noted over time that about 20 to 25 years ago, when you were approaching a tea factory say 300 metres, a nice aroma would hit your nostrils and you would realise there is a processor nearby even before you see it.

Nowadays, in order to get the tea scent, you have to step into the processing floor,” he said.

Another indication, he cited, is significant drop in quality of commercial, speciality and manufactured tea that has been noticed since the 1990s.

“Some 15 years ago when we were given 100 samples to taste and analyse the tea quality in those cups, we would manage about 70 outstanding cups. Some 10 years ago out of the same samples we were given, we identified 55 outstanding cups, five years ago during the same quantity analysation, we identified only 45 outstanding quality cups,” he said.

However, East African Tea Traders Association insisted that Kenyan tea is still of high quality.

“In relative terms, we must appreciate the volumes of Kenyan tea are above 400 million kilos. If you look at Rwandan tea, it is just above 15 million kilos,” Eatta managing director Edward Mudibo said, adding Kenyan tea experts have helped to lift up Rwanda.

KTDA chief executive officer Apollo Kiarii rooted for diversification to speciality teas.

“Because that is where the money is. But will you as a farmer, producer or businessman adhere to good manufacturing processes?” he posed.

 

Culled from the Nation of Kenya.

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