I left work last Monday with my rucksack on my back and butterflies in my tummy. Not my normal commute home from Suki, Zoë was taking me to the airport for the start of my African Tea Travels. She noticed the tears welling up in my eyes and gave me the reassurance I needed that it would be a wonderful adventure.. And, of course, Zoë is always right! I've always made our source visits to far flung, exotic tea gardens with Oscar, and his boundless energy and enthusiasm always keep me from missing home and my 3 young children, and worrying about small details like whether my husband has managed to find the school tights without the holes in them and if they are living on beans for a week.
Patrick, in our warehouse and dispatch, weighed my bag before I left - 8.6kg for a week in Mombasa to experience the East African Tea Auctions and Rukeri Tea Plantation in Rwanda - I was pleased I'd managed to pack so light, even with gifts, 2 pairs of sandals and an extra book. Zoë dropped me off .. 7 flights, 6 days - African Tea Adventure here I come! I now needed something stronger than tea though.
24 hours later and I was in the exiting world of the East African Tea Auctions, enjoying a strong, sweet cup of black tea that was like a meal in itself and soaking up the energy in the room as the big players in the tea industry bid for lots of exotically-named African tea gardens.
One million kilos of CTC tea (tea produced for teabags) was probably traded that day (with what appeared to be Egypt traders purchasing most of it from the time I was in the room) - mind boggling quantities in one day! 11 years ago, Oscar and I clubbed together £300 each to start Suki Tea and purchased 20kg - this year we'll be purchasing 30tonnes of Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance orthodox black tea from Rukeri Tea Gardens in Rwanda - the next leg of my tea travels. None of our loose leaf, orthodox teas are traded at the auctions here. We need to project, contract and have it specifically made from carefully selected tea gardens to ensure our blends maintain a consistently great tasting cuppa.
That night I ate fresh seafood by the light of the moon and even got to dip my toes in the very calm and wonderfully warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Tomorrow morning, Kigali, Rwanda and the next leg of my African Tea Travels...
Follow our blog to find out how I got on in Rukeri and see some of the spectacular views I experienced, read the second stage of my trip here