Production of orthodox specialty teas by factories managed by Kenya Tea Development Agency rose by an impressive 25 per cent in the year ended June 30 as the diversification strategy to reduce reliance on Black CTC gathers momentum.
The factories produced 2 million kilos of orthodox tea, up from 1.6 million kilos in the previous year (2018-19).
The increased output reflects the ongoing investment in machinery with 10 factories having installed production lines for orthodox tea processing.
Of these, 9 are processing. These are – Itumbe, Michimikuru, Kangaita, Imenti, Kiru, Thumaita, Gitugi, Kagwe and Chinga.
One more factory (Kimunye) is being commissioned and will commence processing of orthodox tea this quarter.
Another factory under construction, Matunwa (Nyamira County) is also set to process orthodox tea.
The roll-out is continuing and more factories will be investing in orthodox processing lines.
In addition, a specialty tea factory in Kangaita is nearing completion and is expected to process Japanese-style green tea.
The growth in capacity by these expanded and new facilities will further accelerate a diversification programme by the Agency aimed at opening new markets and diversifying earnings from the current Black CTC tea whose prices have taken a dip at the Mombasa Tea Auction.
Orthodox teas are whole leaf teas processed using a delicate method of gradually rolling green leaf into sizes of different twists and styles.
This is unlike Black CTC tea where the leaf is cut into fine granules by a set of rollers.
Other speciality teas on focus include green, purple and white teas. Kenyan-made orthodox teas are mainly sold in Germany, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.