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Thinking about importing Kenyan Tea? A useful guide on important procedures.

If you're planning to import tea from Kenya to Africa, Europe, Middle East, CIS, or elsewhere, we detail some of the main steps on what importers must expect during the import process, from product sampling to final shipment.

What is the best Kenyan tea? You decide.

The overall demand for tea has continued to increase due to its perceived health benefits, convenience, and availability. This trend has seen all the major tea categories — including traditional (Kenyan, Indian, and Ceylon breakfast blends), ready-to-drink, catering, and specialty tea, grow in recent years.

Depending on the above category of tea you'd like to import for your market, you most likely have an idea of the type of raw material that will help you achieve your desired business outcome.

Perhaps you'd like to diversify an already existing brand to include tea for your established network, or maybe it's a brand new business where you need assistance on how to buy Kenyan tea.

Whatever your business goals, as these international brands demonstrate, (from United Kingdom, Russia, Bahrain, to Gambia and beyond), Kenyan tea is quality by nature.

The process and formalities to import tea may differ from one another and from country to country. However, some of the common steps and procedures are:

It goes without saying that when you're looking for a supplier, finding a reputable and reliable company is paramount. The best way to do that is to get a recommendation from someone you trust or build networks in trade shows.

Regrettably, because of COVID-19, popular trade shows like World Tea Expo are on hold or witnessed a much lower attendance.

Because of this, for the last two years, the majority of tea buyers and suppliers have established initial contact online. Fortunately, in Kenya, it is easy to ensure that the information you're getting about any tea supplier is accurate.

All suppliers should meet these two main requirements for tea exporting. One of which is a registered member of the Tea Directorate of the Agriculture & Food Authority (AFA) and an EATTA buyer member at the Mombasa tea auction.

After establishing contact with your supplier, the next step is identifying a blend fit for your market.

2. Identifying the best Kenyan tea for your market

Kenyan tea suppliers will have what is known as a 'standard' for every market. In simple terms, this is usually a blend identifiable by a number and one that is typically popularly sold in any given market.

For instance, in Egypt, there are blends with specific characteristics for that market, a desirable CTC blend of a mix of PD (Pekoe Dust) and D1 (Dust 1) or a blend of PF1 tea grade (Pekoe Fanning) and PD packed in 60kgs bags. In contrast, a market like Kuwait will favour Orthodox tea, FBOPE or Pekoe, packed in paper 30kg sacks.

Typically an importer is encouraged to send a sample of a blend they would like to benchmark plus key characteristics they require from the tea (colour, taste, aroma, etc). At this point, a supplier is trying to determine what your target market prefers - is it a strong cup of tea, do they take milk tea, or do they favour a mild cup?

This way, the Tea Master and Blender can curate as per the specific requirement.

3. Bulk tea, Private label, or Whole sale tea packaging?

It's important to note that all countries have different regulations on customs duty for importing ready-to-use branded tea versus bulk. Tea suppliers should work with you and offer the most convenient packing.

These can be offered in bulk (30kgs or 60kgs packed in sacks) for you to re-pack, brand, and market. Some may even provide a complete solution of Kenyan tea packed in tea bags (single or double chamber) or loose packing (100g, 200g, e.t.c) for you to distribute in your market.

In some cases, tea bags (only) can also be packed in bulk volumes (in clear pouches) and sent to a country where they are re-packed into cartons.

These options are available for regular black tea as well as flavoured tea.

4. Kenyan tea samples blended with your customer in mind

Pictures and videos of the Kenyan tea blends designed exclusively as per your requirements, can be shared on WhatsApp or email. The video below shows our Tea Master describing the tea characteristics to a client in Yemen.

Physical samples and a phytosanitary certificate are air-couriered for final pre-shipment approval. The phytosanitary is issued to indicate specified phytosanitary import requirements.

Inappropriate documentation for sending samples leads to clearance delays or rejections by customs in some cases. Buyers should check any new rules and regulations from their country for a hassle-free custom clearance process.

Commercial food imports for the American market require the filing of a Prior Notice with the FDA. A foreign manufacturer or distributor of food products must register with the FDA before the goods are accepted.

Once the sample is approved, commercial terms are discussed and agreed on.

5. Signing an official contract with a Kenyan tea supplier

Once you confirm the sample you want and all the supplier terms, you can sign a formal contract, more commonly known as a Proforma Invoice. The commitment is on an agreed basis that the seller will ship the tea as per the pre-shipment sample and that the buyer will adhere to the payment terms.

Even though payment terms differ, most suppliers prefer Letter of Credit (LC) on an agreement of 30% advance and 70% balance after faxing a copy of BL (Bill of Lading). All Kenyan tea payments are in the currency of US Dollars (US$).

6. Shipping Kenyan tea from Mombasa

There is one main commercial seaport in Kenya located in Mombasa.

Its harbor and position on the coast of the Indian Ocean has made it an international seaport and the main trade gateway on the East African coast.

Once filed, the supplier will provide import entry documents, carrier documents such as Bill of Lading, commercial invoice, packing list, certificate of origin, and other necessary import procedures are completed for delivery of goods.

Finally, most well-meaning Kenyan tea suppliers strive for repeat business. Strictly following the required quality parameters in the steps above will ensure the importer is satisfied and only the best Kenyan tea product reaches foreign ports, leading to long-term business.

Take the first step, get in touch today with your Kenyan tea requirements and be well on your way to achieving a quality product your customers will love.

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