When I first started learning more about tea, I was surprised to find out that Africa is quite a big grower and producer. In my mind, all tea grew in China and India. That idea has long since been updated as tea actually grows in over 70 countries worldwide and can be found on every continent, except Antarctica.
A lot of the tea that is grown in Africa are CTC types (Cut, Tear, Curl), which is mostly used in blends for teabags to keep the production cost as low as possible. Tanzania is no exception to this and as such Tanzanian tea would not be very interesting for consumers looking for speciality teas. Until Bente Luther-Medoch came along.
In 1992 Bente and her husband moved from Germany to the Kilimanjaro region. Initially they started growing and cultivating coffee as the volcanic soil provides the perfect growing conditions for this plant. Through her love for tea, she teamed up with Wollenhaupt and started planting tea bushes on a small plot, which have since produced multiple orthodox teas (orthodox as opposed to CTC). The taste of these black, green, and oolong teas is quite unique as the combination of terroir (yes, like wine!) and production style is quite unique as well.
To be able to increase the volume, Bente started a smallholder project in the Usambara valley, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. Many of the participating smallholders had recently lost a big part of their income because the local factory they had been supplying, had to shut down for financial reasons. With the project’s help, they were able to revive their plots and tea bushes and are now producing a very high quality leaf that gets processed by a small factory in the Kilimanjaro area. The results of this cultivation experiment are beautiful and exceptional teas that are now being offered to the market under the Usambara name.
Being an experienced farmer and manager and the exquisite teas she produces are not the only factors of Bente's success. Another big passion of hers is the cooperation with the local people and farmers. She pays fair wages and in the spirit of helping people help themselves, she assists in the development of projects with the local residents to help improve living conditions of the people in the community. To manage the number of projects and their cost, she established an association with other partners in Germany, which funds the projects: “Kilimanjaro Project Initiative e.V.”. Since its establishment the initiative has successfully lead multiple project, some of which you can see in the photo to the right.
“Close your eyes for a moment. Can you feel the wind sweeping gently and warmly over the slopes of the Usambara Mountains? Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s mighty snow-capped summit, towers in the vast blue sky above the red-brown landscape of East Africa. Savannahs, rainforests – a unique climate in which the exceptional teas grow and ripen. Teas from Tanzania are generally regarded as a quality product of good standard, but the teas grown and processed by Tanzanian-North German famer Bente Luther-Medoch are extraordinary. Even going beyond that: Bente and her Tanzanian partners produce teas of outstanding excellence. Open your eyes again and take a close look at these amazing delicacies from the purest tea passion. Decide to try out the three tea rarities, available as an oolong, green tea or black tea variety.”
All Things Tea currently stocks the Usambara Green Tea and the Usambara Oolong Tea. Everyone is welcome to come by our shop in Brampton, to see, smell and taste these beautiful teas. If you can’t make it to the shop, you can also order them online.
Disclaimer: I purchased these products with my own resources and I was not asked to review them. This is my honest opinion. I am not affiliated with Wollenhaupt, the Usambara brand nor the Kilimanjaro Project Initiative e.V.