The Kenya Tea Development Agency plans to introduce cottage tea processing industries for specialty teas.
Farmers in areas like Murang’a, Kiambu, and Thika who have started growing purple tea have been forced to mix it with the normal tea during delivery to factories.
The only factory that processes purple tea and other specialities like white tea and green tea is Kangaita factory in Kerugoya.
Delivering tea from different growers to the Kangaita factory would not be possible due to the long distances and the fact that tea is delivered to the factory on the same day it is picked.
KTDA general manager in charge of sales and marketing Albert Otochi said the move to set up the industries has been necessitated by the fragmented farming of speciality teas.
Introduction of cottage industries would see KTDA set up small processing units that can handle small quantities. The normal processing lines handle large quantities of 30,000 kilogrammes and above. Production of speciality teas is however still very low.
Of all the 66 KTDA tea factories in Kenya, only the Kangaita tea factory has a special processing line. Currently, the speciality line receives an average of 3,000 kilogrammes of purple tea from the KTDA owned Kangaita tea farm and it produces 400 kilogrammes of processed tea.
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The 600 acre farm has the largest purple tea plantation in the country of 62,000 bushes.
The farm was used for initial trials of purple tea after it was developed by the Tea Research Foundation of Kenya. The farm’s nursery was also used for multiplication for sale to farmers.
Farmers started planting purple tea in 2011 when it was officially released for commercialisation by the Tea Research foundation.
“It takes three years for the tea to mature and the crop that farmers planted is now ready for plucking,” said Festus Kaburi, the Kangaita tea factory manager.
Farmers from Kangaita have started delivering their purple tea to the factory while farmers in areas such as Murang’a, Kiambu and Thika have been forced to mix it with normal tea.
KTDA hopes that the cottage industries will help to cater for the small quantities produced in these areas.
Cottage industries have been successfully used in China and Sri-Lanka to produce small quantities of speciality teas.