Rob made his first trip to Kenya in 2017 with trusted friends and advisors Sharon & Nick, both totally committed to brining greater transparency and prosperity to the Kenyan Tea Industry [& who you can read more about in our book Tales of the Tea Trade]- This was a trip that raised a number of questions for us that we explored in a series of blogs that you can read below. These provide the background to the importance of a considered approach when bringing Orthodox Kenyan Teas to the Tea House
1. The challenges of sourcing tea in this amazing country and the potential routes we can now take having visited and made lasting connections.
3. The history and impact of CTC tea in the Kenyan tea market & how change and opportunity is coming in the shape of Orthodox offerings
Since then we have been in conversation with Sharon & partners that we want to work with from both a quality and approach perspective and have finally chosen two initial teas to bring you at Comins.  Emrok Nandi Royal Orange Pekoe  Gatanga Rolled.
Both EMROK & GATANGA are mainly used to dealing with the export of CTC grade tea - what soon became apparent to us in conversations about the purchase of quality orthodox teas was the low price per kg of tea for the orthodox offering vs the quality. We simply felt it was unethical to pay such low prices for such good tea so we set to talking with Sharon & the teams here about what could be done. Lets be realistic for a moment : we are a small company so for sure, at the moment, we are not capable of ordering the types of quantities of tea that will enable large scale change in the Kenyan Orthodox Industry. However, we hope that by starting conversations with gardens such as these who produce exceptional orthodox offerings, offering a fair price vs other orthodox teas on the market, and discussing positive ways that the premium can be spent they will be well set up to have confident and progressive discussions when larger buyers come knocking on their door.
Core to our values and approach at Comins are transparency and appreciation. Appreciation both in terms of those who work hard to create quality teas and also in terms of the final cup that we have the fortune to take time to enjoy. For this reason we agreed a new approach with these two gardens one which sees us pay a price for the tea which is in line with the price we pay for quality orthodox offerings from other parts of the black tea world. The premium we pay is then distributed in a pre agreed way which is outlined below.
GATANGA : Gatanga is a relatively small operation and the tea we buy from Karanja and the team requires specialist plucking not utilised for other teas they currently sell. As such it is easier to directly identify and offer a premium to those involved in the plucking as this is performed when we place an order. Karanja explains 'In Kenya tea pickers are paid $0.4 for picking 1 kg of processed tea. For specialty teas they are paid $1.3 and for the quality of leaf needed for the Gatanga Hand Rolled the team will double their payment to $2.6' The skilled pluckers who are involved in plucking the quality leaf for our tea are Consolata Nafula, Lydiah Naliaka, Beatrice Nyaingiri, Edwin Simiyu, Zachariah Maina. For the skilled plucking needed for the quality of Gatanga Hand Rolled these pluckers will receive this premium for every order
EMROK : Emrok is a larger operation and has close to 300 pluckers and more than 4000 farmers who supply leaf to the garden. So when looking at paying a premium for a relatively small volume of tea the team felt that it was simply not feasible or significantly material to divide the money between them. In Kenya the rates paid to pluckers are also standardized with the union so for Emrok it is important that there is no discrimination between the team.
So with the team at Emrok we have agreed that the additional amount we pay per kilogram goes into a managed fund dedicated to the Comins account and contributes to the projects listed below. The team at Emrok provide us with updates of projects undertaken from the funds
- Supporting the primary school we have on the estate
- This is where children of our employees and surrounding farmers go to school
- The resource can go towards infrastructural improvement or Purchase of books depending on the amount available
- Improving social amenities at the employees camp
- Improving the Play ground for the children,
- Setting up a social hall for the employees
- Improving the day care center where pluckers leave their toddlers when parents are at work
Once you taste these two great teas you will certainly not look back. They both deliver a bright and vibrant cup perfect throughout the day. Knowing that you are enjoying tea that is fairly and responsibly sourced will, we are sure, make the cup even sweeter. More updates on this project as they come in.
Great article. I really love your ethos.