The weekend before last, Mike and I joined from friends just 45 min outside of town at a local tea farm. We were really looking forward to it, since part of our New Year’s resolution was to get out of the city more. We went to Kiambethu Tea Farm close to Limuru town, which is northwest of us. On the weekends, they have a lunch session where you can go learn about the farm, take a walk through the forest, and enjoy food on the lawn. It was a really nice day out that Saturday, so perfect weather to be outside! As we came up on the tea farms, I was pretty startled by how bright neon green the tea bushes were. I guess I’d never seen a tea plantation before. It was gorgeous with all the rolling hills. When we got the farm, there was a living room set up in an old house, and they had set up chairs for people to sit and listen about the history of the farm. The owner now is this really old cute British lady whose family had come to Kenya in 1903 (!). I can’t even imagine what it was like back then. Tea was introduced to Kenya when all the workers from India came to work on the railroad. They used to bring it from India, but people tried to grow it here and it grew very well, especially in higher altitudes where it was cooler.
The tea pickers are paid by weight, and it’s amazing to see how fast they work. They go through the bushes which are planted densely together, and throw the plucked leaves over their shoulders into a basket on their back. It’s one of the few industries where they still employ human labor to pick the leaves since they’re so delicate and the machines would crush the leaves. You have to be very careful, because once the leaf is crushed, it immediately starts oxidizing and would get rejected by the processor. When they pluck, they also only take the first 2-3 shoots off the end, so the bush keeps generating. The top shoot is the youngest and the best quality. The different types of tea are made from different types of tea plants but they are all in the camellia family (had no idea!).
Then we went on a walk through the indigenous forest–there’s not many left near Nairobi unfortunately and that was nice, but a little strange since it had nothing to do with tea. But nice to take a walk nonetheless. They don’t let you walk through the tea fields since you can damage the bushes.
Then we all ended it with lunch outside with some nice Kenyan iced tea! Great afternoon spent and learned a lot.