Travel

UK couple on a tea holiday

Les Millbark and his wife Sara, a couple from England who visited Kenya just for the love of Kenyan tea at the Maasai Mara. PHOTO | RUTH MBULA
Les Millbark and his wife Sara, a couple from England who visited Kenya just for the love of Kenyan tea at the Maasai Mara. PHOTO | RUTH MBULA 

Les Millbark and his wife Sara saved about Sh1.4 million (£10,000) for five years just to visit Kenya, where their favourite tea is grown.

The elderly couple from the UK say they love the Kenyan tea so much that they had to visit and see its land, at least once in their lifetime. 

“My husband always insists we buy any Kenyan tea available in our supermarkets back in England. For over 30 years of our marriage, I have seen how his face gleams every time I serve him tea made from Kenyan tea leaves,’’ said Ms Millbark who is 61-years-old while her husband is 63.

“A single sip makes him brighter, younger and jovial. It has some sought of stimulation.”

The Millbarks have been in the country for nine days. They first visited Kiambu, touring the Kiambethu Tea farm.

They bought two packets of tea leaves, a souvenir for their trip.

“We had to visit a tea plantation and see with our own eyes the origin of our favourite tea. It does not mean that the Kenyan tea we drink back in England necessarily comes from Kiambu, but it is one of the many tea planting regions in Kenya as we learned,” she said.

“We wanted to see how it grows, harvested and processed to the quality tea we take.”

The couple, who operate a laundry house and manage property in England, say they enjoy black and green tea and Ms Millbark says she takes between 12 to 15 cups of tea daily.

“We are not very rich, but we just decided to save from our little earnings to just come to visit the tea plantations among other tourist sites,” they said, adding that they now have a story to tell about Kenya.

The UK, Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan and Sudan are Kenya’s main markets for its tea. According to the Tea Board of Kenya, the UK bought about two million kilogrammes of tea in the first quarter of 2017.

Fiona Vernon, a Briton whose grandfather, Arnold Butler McDonell came to Kenya around 1910, runs the Kiambethu farm. The tea at Kiambethu farm has since then been an attraction to thousands of visitors among them former US President Jimmy Carter and his family.



Kiambethu’s main house and inset the tea farm. PHOTO | FILE
Kiambethu’s main house and inset the tea farm. PHOTO | FILE

Game drive

In addition to the tea tours, Fiona conducts nature walks in the adjacent 12-acre indigenous forest and offers guests lunch made from ingredients found in the farm.
The Millbarks say they also visited Samburu and Nairobi national parks and Maasai Mara where they said they had an experience of their lifetime.

I caught up with them at the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. They were staying at Mara Engai Wilderness Camp.

“We have visited many other places in the world including Hongkong, Tunisia and Morocco, but Kenya is just great. Maasai Mara is the best of all. We got to experience what a safari is all about after going for game drives for three consecutive days. We have had value for our money, having met kind and genuine people. Kenyan people are the most genuine in the world,” said Mr Millibark who has three children and seven grandchildren.

He said back in England, people have lost all their traditions and what makes Kenya unique is the culture.

“Kenyans pride in themselves!” he said.

The couple were amazed at some of the things Kena has done.

“In some instances, Kenya is far much ahead of us like banning plastic bags. This puts England far behind in environment management,” they said.