Hop on another plane leaving the hot, clammy, bustle of Mombasa to the high altitudes of Kigali, Rwanda – ‘the land of 1000 hills’. What struck me on the descent was the lush and fertile lands and the simple yet modern beauty of the city. The sky was overcast, the air clean and pure, and a heavy mist clung to the upper hills in the distance. Something about this country struck me immediately deep within and I felt at home.
I spent the 2-hour taxi ride to Rukeri tea gardens learning key phrases in the local language (my French is poor), which would serve me well for my short time there. Rukeri Tea Garden is located in North West Rwanda and with its high elevation, rich volcanic soil and tropical highland climate, it’s the perfect combination for producing a quality tea, not far removed from a lighter Assam tea or really good Kenyan tea. It’s perfect as a base leaf for our Earl Grey Blue Flower and complements the mix of blend ingredients in our Belfast Brew and Breakfast Tea, adding brightness and body with a delicate astringency.
It wasn’t long before I was at the picturesque Sorwathe Tea Garden Guesthouse, located near the tea factory and overlooking the beautifully kept undulating tea gardens that swept down to the valleys below. I was surrounded by rolling hills and volcanoes in the far distance bordering DRC.
I was taken straight to Rohith’s office at the factory, the General Manager, and there we cracked an action and tea-packed plan for the next 2 days involving factory and production tour, tea tastings in their lab, garden tours, and an update and visits to their ongoing Fairtrade funded projects on site and the work that they perform to comply with 10 principles of Rainforest Alliance.
That night I dined with Rohith on a balcony of the factory guesthouse overlooking the lush rolling valleys and hills, with the thriving tea plantation only a few metres away, and drank hearty cups of black tea with sugar and warmed, sweet milk. We talked tea all evening – quality, grade of leaf, new varieties or grades we could explore, production processing and output and delivery schedules, and, more importantly, how to nurture and develop stronger relations with the garden and the workers who grow, pick, and produce our chosen, quality orthodox black teas. I was in bed by 9.00pm – unheard of as I’m usually only getting my children to bed for the umpteenth time by that stage – but woke up bright and refreshed and ready for tea!
Follow the blog to find out where my Tea Travels took me next and what wonderful experiences I had! If you missed the first part of this trip, you can read all about it here and for the next installment, you'll find it here!