Tea time in some parts of the world is 4 pm, while in others, tea is simply not a part of the daily schedule. In Kenya, however, any time is a great time for a cup of tea. Most Kenyans will admit to drinking no less than three cups of tea a day.
Tea in the Kenyan Tradition
According to Kenyan tradition, strong friendship ties are forged over a cup of tea. Any visitor to a Kenyan home will be offered a cup of tea, at any time and in any weather. “Any time is tea time,” is a common saying in Kenya. Be warned that refusing the offer can be viewed as an insult to the host, in the absence of an excellent excuse.
Generally the tea offered will be prepared in the traditional style, mixed with plenty of milk and a mix of spices locally known as tea masala. Sometimes the host will mix in sugar as well. Increasingly, many people are cutting sugar from their diets, so it is common for a host to offer tea without sugar and allow each guest to add their own.
Kenyans also meet socially over a cup of tea. Restaurants too offer the Kenyan mixed masala tea, as well as English tea.
How did tea come to be so important to Kenya?
Kenya's Tea Economy
Perhaps the role tea plays in Kenya’s economy explains why it is a popular drink.
In 2009, Kenya became the number one exporter of tea in the world. According to an article in Business Daily newspaper, Kenya’s earnings from tea are expected to surpass Sh75 billion in 2010. According to the Tea Board of Kenya, Kenya’s tea industry exports to over 45 markets around the world and accounts for 22 percent of the world’s tea exports. More than 3 million Kenyan earn a living from tea, directly or indirectly.
Driving through the highlands of Kenya, in areas such as Kericho and Tigoni, it is not uncommon to see acres and acres of beautiful green tea growing in the fields.
While black tea is the most popular tea in Kenya, herbal teas are also becoming quite popular among the health conscious. Kenyan stores stock a variety of locally made herbal teas, including Neem, Chamomile, Hibiscus and Wheat Grass teas. This is no surprise, since Kenyan’s love herbal remedies. However, when it comes to tea, the black variety is by far the most popular.
According to healthcastle.com, black, green, white, oolong, red, and herbal teas all contain antioxidants that may reduce the risk of gastric, esophageal, skin and ovarian cancers.
Perhaps the most obvious health benefit of a cup of tea is the opportunity to relax and enjoy a cuppa with friends and family; Kenyans will confirm this much!