Tea from Tanzania
- Category: Tea Growing Areas of Africa
When Tanzania became a republic in 1961 the government nationalized many of the large tea estates and encouraged smallholders to grow tea independently. Current support for smallholder tea producers has been the main factor in the improving quality of Tanzanian tea in recent years.
The first tea was planted in Tanzania in 1905 at agricultural research stations by German settlers. Commercial tea production began in 1926 but it wasn’t until the end of WWII that tea became a significant cash crop.
Tea is produced mostly in the foothill districts of the south and north. The northern tea producing region is in the area leading up to Mount Kilimanjaro. The main tea area in the north is Usambara in the Masai Steppe. In the south, tea is grown in the Njombe and Mufindi regions where the foothills rise up to the mountains bordering the Great Rift Valley and Lake Malawi.
Tea production remained in the control of large foreign-owned estates up until independence in 1961. When Tanzania became a republic it nationalized many of the large tea estates and encouraged smallholders to grow tea independently. The governmental Tanzanian Tea Authority controlled the tea industry and bought the tea from the independent growers at a fixed price. Economic decline combined with the strict price controls served to virtually destroy smallholder tea production by the late 1990’s.
Economic reform revived the large tea estates and majority shares were sold to foreign interests. This influx of foreign capital and the loosening price controls helped to revive the tea industry in Tanzania. The role of the Tanzania Tea Authority has change to that of a research and regulatory agency.
Smallholder tea production has also seen a revival. Several smallholder associations give independent producers access to resources and markets that would otherwise be out of reach. This support for smallholder tea producers has been the main factor in the improving quality of Tanzanian tea in recent years.
Tanzanian tea is black tea characterized by a strong and fruity flavor. Almost all Tanzanian tea is produced by the CTC (Cut, Tear, and Curl) method.