A tale of tea and roses

Kiambethu Tea
Kiambethu Tea Farm – Limuru, Kenya

A quick deviation from British baking and a jump to sunnier climes – off to Kenya to get us thinking about where our food comes from. With three days to go to the Kenyan election on Monday all fingers are crossed for a peaceful week and a smooth transition of power. It’s interesting to see how global events can affect the minutia of our lives. What goes into your cup of tea?

My parents are living in Kenya at the moment, and I have been lucky enough to go and visit them a few times. Until last Christmas when I visited a tea farm in Limuru, north of Nairobi and just south of the equator I hadn’t realised that 50% of British tea comes from Kenyan farms.

I’m not talking about speciality teas such as Chinese Earl Grey or an Indian Assam but ordinary black tea such as Yorkshire Tea, Lipton’s and PG tips teabags. Tea grows best at high altitudes, and the Kiambethu farm can be found at 2 500m. The farm itself is beautiful, rolling hills of tea and a small-holding of chickens, geese and cows to provide the tea pickers with fresh eggs and milk.

Kiambethu cows

The UK drinks over 165 million cups of tea a day, how many of us actually think about where our food comes from? Or to what extent your tea drinking habits are supporting the Kenyan economy – Bloomberg estimates that sales from Kenyan tea brought in $1.2 billion last year.

Lake Naivasha Roses
Naivasha roses at home in the kitchen

While out in Kenya I also visited Lake Naivasha, its beautiful landscape, located at a high altitude is a perfect climate for flamingos, African fish eagles and more unusually, row upon row of roses. The sale of foreign flowers is a controversial topic, many ‘green’ organisations are campaigning for only local flowers, but I agree with the Fairtrade organisation in supporting the sale of Kenyan roses supports the 2 million people directly dependent on the flower industry. 30% of all British cut flowers come from Kenya bringing in revenues of more than $250 million a year. This time of year is crucial for the 5 000 Kenyan flower farmers with Valentine’s Day and the Mothering Sunday in close succession.

Lake Naivasha
Lake Naivasha – Kenya

It is clearly important to check where your food comes from, but what seems to matter more is whether they were produced and sold in a fair environment. What do you think?

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