China’s growing thirst for black and purple tea from Kenya led to a sizeable 5 million kilograms per year agreement this month.
Xinhua News Service reports the sale is valued at $67 million (KSH7 billion) annually.
Kenyan Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said the three-year deal “is expected to increase to more than 30 million kilograms annually valued at an estimated $385 million (KSH40 billion) shillings in the next 10 years.”
Globally black tea consumption is on the rise, but so is production. The black tea harvest through June is up 2%, depressing prices at export. In Kenya black tea output declined 8.4% during the first six months of the year to 244 million kilos.
Black tea, called hongcha, originated in Wuyi in Fujian Province. It is relatively new to China which began manufacturing it only 200 years ago. In recent years tea drinkers there, especially the young, switch from green to oxidized teas during the fall and winter months.
“As high-quality black teas from the Wuyi Mountains have risen to fame, Chinese people have also re-embraced drinking black tea on its own, with boiling water,” writes Huang Wei, author of the Sixth Tone blog.
Wei notes “a diverse range of black teas from overseas have taken the mainland Chinese market by storm, including British-style honey and lemon tea, American iced tea, Hong Kong-style “silk stocking” and “yuenyeung” teas, and Taiwanese bubble tea.”
The seven-member delegation from China, toured Kenya in late August and September, visiting several specialty tea processing factories before signing a memorandum of understanding, according to Xinhua.
Kiunjuri, who heads Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, said Kenya is intent on forging a close bilateral trade relationship with China for whole leaf and premium cut, tea, curl (CTC) teas, including purple tea.
To assist Kenya, Fuzhou Benny Tea Industry Company Ltd., will provide new machinery to the processing factories along with tea-making expertise to craft teas suited to China’s market. The company will also provide warehousing and marketing support in China.
The warehouse will serve any Kenyan factory seeking to export its tea to China, said Zhang Chaobin, chairman of Fuzhou Ltd. The tea will be listed for auction at wholesale prices on China’s digital platforms.
Zhang said a vibrant Sino-Kenya trade in specialty tea will help fulfill key objectives of The Belt and Road Initiative.
“Our trade with Kenya in the specialty tea sector is complimentary. It will also boost friendship,” said Zhang.
The delegation of officials of the China National Forest Industry Federation Ecological Tea and Coffee Branch are intent on developing strategies aimed at deepening trade in specialty tea, writes Xinhua.
Kiunjuri was especially keen on tapping the specialty market in China.
“We believe a partnership with Chinese companies will lead to growth of the purple tea market segment. It is our desire to pursue enhanced access to Chinese market for tea products,” said Kiunjuri.
Zhu Zhonghai, secretary general of China National Forestry Industry Federation Ecological Tea and Coffee Branch said high quality specialty tea from Kenya will resonate with Chinese consumers, according to The Nation.