We drove to the purple tea field at sunrise. In 2014, David planted his first purple tea plants on 15 acres of former grazing lands. Purple tea thrives, where green tea plants can struggle with an increasingly drier climate. Unfortunately, a recent hailstorm injured the new tea leaves and the next picking would need to go to the CTC tea factory rather than David manufacturing whole leaf purple. The good news is that the purple plants grow quickly and the pickers will be back in a week. Typical green tea plants don’t grow as well in the acidic soil where livestock previously grazed, David said, but the purple flourishes.
We drove through the many tea plantations that surround the area, and I took photos of the tea pickers. I was nervous about taking their pictures, but everywhere they welcomed us. I explained that we sell Kenyan tea and were there to learn and promote their tea. We visited a small tea factory and they showed us how the tea was manufactured.
Folks waved at David everywhere he went. He grew up here, this is his community. His parents live adjacent to his property, as do his brothers. His brother Joel (said Joelle) is in charge of the planting, picking and interns under the farm supervisor. The youngest brother just finished college. Bernadine owns the ever expanding Garden Shop, where she sells grains, fruits, vegetables, clothing, and other essentials to the locals. Her store is the closest for many in the southern Nandi Hills. Jennifer, their youngest (9 yrs) leaves the house at 5:30 am to attend school an hour away and returns 12 hours later (!!), Monday-Friday. Yvonne, their eldest, will graduate from high school in November. Eduction is fundamental to this family and demonstrates why Kenya is ahead of other African countries.
We toured the Nandi Hills Tea Estate tea factory. The manager is David’s best freind. We get a black CTC tea from here, and we wanted to compare the larger tea estates to small scale tea farms. This factory currently produces eight grades amounting to 120,000 kilos a day. Tea produced with the estate gets funneled through Mombassa, adding time and expense. With the estate model, farmers are paid less and their payments are delayed, sometimes up to 2 months. This causes financial stress when they need to pay their tea pickers.