Britain's Great Love Affair with Kenyan Tea
Updated: Apr 25
For a rich tea base, 7/10 of UK’s best selling tea brands buy Kenyan tea as an essential ingredient. We explore the significance of Kenyan CTC tea to produce tea bag blends your customers will fall in love with.
Most of Kenya's tea exports to traditional destinations like Pakistan, Egypt, and UAE are for transit trade. However, as we know, Tea is not just a beverage for folks in the UK, but a way of life. With its strong flavour, colour, and aroma, Kenyan tea has conquered the British teacup, to quench the population’s consumption of 100 million cups a day.
Because of this demand, and a well-documented political and economic history between the two countries), UK based multinational companies have expanded their trading arms to Kenya, for decades.
Why do Brits love Kenyan tea this much?
As statistics go, Kenya is by far Britain's largest supplier of black tea from a single origin. We’ll take a look at why this is the case, but first, let’s take a look at the top 10 UK Tea brands in 2019.
From our research, we found that only three companies did not source any Kenyan tea in their products, as single-origin or for blending purposes.
Among them, TeaPigs sources their teas from tea gardens in India (Assam and Darjeeling) and Rwanda (Gisenyi). At number 9, Tick Tock tea is an exclusive Rooibos tea company sourcing directly from the Cederberg coastal mountains of South Africa. On the other hand, Pukka’s brand is more herb oriented with their English Breakfast ingredients sourced from India (Putharjhora Dooars, Darjeeling), and Panshagarh in Bangladesh.
So why do tea tasters and blenders choose Kenyan tea for their teabags?
Proven Benefits in Tea blending:
Around 96% of tea UK tea brands offer teabags containing a good quality black tea blend for a quickly brewed cup of tea. As we've already covered, for a Rich Tea Base, Kenyan tea is an essential ingredient when it comes to the art of tea blending, where UK tea masters carefully blend Kenyan tea leaves in the right proportions to create tea blends for different market niches.
Some of the Kenyan tea benefits frequently highlighted by the experienced UK based international tea blenders include:
“Beautiful deep red liquor with robust, full-bodied flavor; strong, brisk and balanced” as noted by Twinings. When asked what makes their popular English Strong Breakfast blend unique, they attributed this to the East of the rift, where “African teas get the perfect amount of sun and rain. They add a real brightness and character to this blend.” Likewise, Clipper teas described their Kenyan teas as “delicious, fresh briskness and a bright coppery golden color”.
Tea growing regions in East and West of The Rift Valley of Kenya produce the best teas, owing to ideal climatic and soil conditions for tea cultivation. In particular, the scientifically named TRFK 6/8, is a tea cultivar grown in the Eastern section of the Rift valley consistently producing quality teas. Additionally, improved farming practices and management in these highlands results in teas with exceptional qualities and demand at the Mombasa tea auction.
Value for money
As Kenya is a relatively new tea-growing region (in comparison to the likes of China and India), practices along the overall Kenyan tea supply chain lead to a high cost of production.
However, blending different grades achieves high-quality tea that's budget-friendly. For example, in early 2020, the Indian market climbed too high for a Ukrainian based tea blender for his British brands. In what is a very competitive market, it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain his price levels. This and an added requirement for potentially cleaner (in terms of pesticides and microbiology) tea, rich in antioxidants made him decide to switch to Kenyan tea.
Industry achievements create confidence
Factories, suppliers, and exporters of Kenya must align with standardization and certification processes regulated by independent and government-led bodies such as EATTA (the East African Tea Traders Association) and AFA (Agriculture and Food Authority). Beyond that, some producers have even gone into international schemes such as Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade.
In the UK, Kenyan tea has something for everyone – Whether that’s a strong brew of black tea (typically drunk by the working class), a mild unbroken leaf cup of tea further up the social ladder, and EVERYTHING in between.
Last but not least, historic trading partners
Post-Brexit, British Prime Minister Boris Johnsons at the Africa summit in 2020, spoke on how reliant the UK is on international trade with Kenya, even for tea, which is something most people around the world attribute to being a stereotypically British thing.
Boris Johnson shows gratitude to Kenya for its role in the UK tea trade in his opening speech at the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London.
“I’m told that probably partly as a result of what is going on in Mombasa half of all the tea drunk in the UK comes to us from Kenya. Think of that. Britain without a nice cup of tea is barely worth thinking about, and that means Britain without Kenya is barely worth thinking about. Literally sustained, kept sane and rational throughout the day by infusions of Kenyan supply tea.” Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister.
If you’re looking for ways to uplift your tea blends, Kenyan tea is an easy and reliable option for you. With a dash of Kenyan tea in your blend, achieve a signature blend, and delight your ideal customer.
With the 3-step process we’ve used to meet Kenyan tea requirements worldwide, contact us today, get your desired tea samples sent to you fast for approval, and be well on your way to meeting your business goals.