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Tea Production in Rwanda

Hi there! I’m, Oluwalanu, a culture blogger traveling around Africa to explore the different cultures across the continent.

Today, we’re in Rwanda exploring how tea is made here from start to finish! How exciting lol

Before this trip, I knew nothing about how tea was made. Firstly, did you know that all types of tea are made with the same plant? And all the different flavours are infused after the tea is made? Well, we’re going to learn about it!

Tea is one of Rwanda’s two largest exports, the other is coffee. I really wished I could have visited a coffee farm as well but again, I didn’t really plan and thought I could randomly visit one when I got to Rwanda. Things don’t work so simply in Rwanda because tourism is more formalized in East Africa. Also, there are a lot of foreign coffee companies that go there to shoot content for their marketing so anyone wanting to visit a coffee farm would need to arrange it in advance with the appropriate authorities.

Anyway, luckily my aunt was able to call a friend and get me a tour of a tea plantation, which turned out to be the most awesome tour ever. We set out of Kigali at about 9 am. The plantation was about 3 and a half hours outside of Kigali. When we arrived at the village, we met with the owner, Mr Patrick. I believe he and his family own a few tea plantations and factories in Rwanda. Their tea company and factory is called Karongi Tea. The plantation and tea factory were the center of life in the village and most of the people who lived there were tea farmers.

The afternoon we arrived, the locals were having their market day where they buy and sell goods. A lot of the people kept looking at us and that made me think they don’t get a lot of visitors. The factory was still about an hour inside the plantation but we stopped at the entrance of the plantation to see where the tea farming process begins. Mr Patrick explained to me how the tea plant takes 3 years to grow into a full plant but you can’t start harvesting until the plant is 5 years old. The tea plant lives for about 100 years. So once it’s fully grown you can keep harvesting for another 95 years.

After seeing the small plants, we hopped back in the car to drive to the factory. On our way, we stopped again to admire the breathtaking view of the tea plantation. The road was small and we were driving beside mountains filled with tea plants. It was so beautiful yet scary. However, with all my exploring, I've learned to live on the edge a little. Just a little though.

Before we arrived at the factory building, we stopped again so Mr. Patrick could show us the part of the plant that is harvested. He said it is called “two leaves and a bud”. Once plucked, it regrows in about 7 to 10 days and can be plucked again. This continues for the lifespan of the tea plant.

After this, we headed into the factory to see the tea manufacturing process. We started off at the loading dock, where the harvested tea leaves and buds are brought. This bag weighs about 20kg. I was shocked because I thought I could carry it so easily. I can definitely still lift it but I didn’t try. After the tea is received at the reception it is dried rebagged and taken into the main factory where the real process begins.

When we got into the factory, we each took turns in carrying the bag and dumping the dried tea onto the loading dock. Because the tea had been dried a bit, the bag weighed a lot less at this stage. Mr. Patrick called the first stage of the process, CTC, which stands for crush, tear and curl. After the CTC, the tea is fermented at 23 degrees celsius. The fermentation process takes about two hours. Here is what it looks like below.

After the fermentation process, the tea is dried for about 30 minutes. We could see the steam coming out of the machine. At the end of the drying process, I put my palm out to let some of the tea drop in. It was a bit hot but very bearable. After the drying process, the tea is sorted into different grades. Here are the different grades below. We also did a little tasting of the different grades. You would be shocked to know that tea tasting is very similar to wine tasting. You cannot swallow it because, in its raw form, the tea is highly caffeinated.

After the tasting, Mr.Patrick said anyone who comes to the factory had to feed the beast! I was like the what? Well let's feed it! We went to the back of the factory where there was a huge furnace that was used for some part of the tea-making process. We each took turns throwing wood into the fire. It was quite fun and hot lol.

At the end of the tour, we all had dinner together and headed on our winding journey back to Kigali at 6 pm. We were in the hills on winding roads in the dark and soon, it began to rain. I remember thinking, this is one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments. That was a day I would never forget.

Before I end this, I have to say Mr. Patrick is one of the nicest and kindest people I have ever met. I didn't even know how to begin to thank him for such a wonderful experience. A huge thank you to everyone at Korangi Tea Factory!

See you guys again soon!

Oluwalanu... x

1 Comment

Jun 07, 2022

Awesome content. What does the fermentation process do to the tea leaves?


Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I am a writer and illustrator from Lagos, Nigeria.


In 2015, I started a company called IheartLagos with the aim of showcasing Lagos culture in a unique and fun way.


That journey took me down an exciting path, discovering and learning so much about Nigeria.

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