Local tea firm DL-Koisagat Tea Company will start processing purple tea for export.
The firm’s Managing Director Geoffrey Darrel said demand for Kenyan purple tea is growing fast in the global market, even as the company finalises plans to put up the factory in Kaptel area, Nandi County.
“The factory will start commercial production of specialty teas, including green tea, white tea, purple tea and orthodox teas,” he said. During the recent Nairobi International Trade Fair, D.L Koisagat Tea Estates Ltd was voted the best specialty tea (purple tea) processor.
It was declared as the company that produces premium purple tea class 344 during the tea class competition 2017.
Mr Darrel said they have invested in land acquisition and growing of purple tea, research and development, factory designs and obtained approvals from the Tea Directorate, National Environmental Management Authority, county government and other regulatory authorities. “We target to start construction of the factory in the first quarter of 2018 and will take 18 months to complete,” he said.
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Mr Darrel said the company has established more than 250 acres of purple tea in collaboration with the farmers in Kaptel-Chemundu area since 2013. It has a nursery with over 500,000 seedlings sold to farmers at subsidised rates.
The seedlings produce higher yields per acre compared to the green and black tea varieties. “The company encourages tea farmers to increase their tea acreage and diversify into new varieties of teas like the purple tea so as to improve the economy and uplift their living standards,” he said.
He said small scale tea farmers will earn more from the new purple tea variety, helping expand Kenya’s tea industry.
Mr Darrel observed that farmers from Kaptel-Chemundu area are experiencing challenges in the delivery and collection of their green leaf due to lack of factory in the zone. The nearest facility located 20km away.
“DL Group in collaboration with the farmers have agreed to partner and work towards establishing the Kaptel tea factory which will greatly benefit the county,” he said. He said the Tea Directorate identified the Kaptel–Chemundu area as a tea zone, noting that the factory will encourage planting of the crop thus improving the economy of Nandi County.
Kenya is Africa’s largest tea producer and the third largest globally, with 40 per cent of the crop grown on large plantations - employing 100,000 workers. The rest comes from the 560,000 small-scale farmers. An estimated three million Kenyan families rely on tea for their livelihoods.
Tea Research Foundation’s Dr Samson Kimunya said the new tea variety has wide range of benefits, making it a favorite for the market due to high prices it fetches.
Dr Kimunya said the purple variety can fetch three to four times the revenue earned by green and black tea varieties. Tea experts say a half a kilogramme of processed purple tea leaves sells at Sh2,600 while the same amount of either black or green tea goes for Sh200.