Around 32% of the world’s tea exports are from Africa, with 22% of that from Kenya, a relative newcomer to the tea industry (twentieth century). Most of these teas are from plants of India origin—Camellia sinensis var. assamica, a robust variety that is typically used to produce strong, black teas—and are processed by the cut-tear-curl (CTC) method, which mechanically cuts the leaves into pieces. Tea can be harvested year round in Kenya, which is on the equator. Malawi has the oldest (nineteenth century) tea gardens in Africa, producing teas with a deep red hue.
A TeaHaus example of a CTC tea from Africa is the Irish breakfast tea O’Sullivan’s Favorite, from a premier tea garden in Burundi in Central Africa.
Other teas from Africa are high-quality, specialty teas, of which Kenya GFOP Kaproret is a striking example. This black tea is a rarity because it is Camellia sinensis var. sinensis—the variety generally found in China, Korea, and Japan and used for green and white teas. Thus, this select tea results from a unique combination of tea genetics and growing environment.
Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) is a legume, the same family of plants to which peas and clover belong. It is native to the Western Cape of South Africa, where is it a popular drink; translated from Afrikaans, rooibos means “red bush.” Young branches are cut from the shrub once a year (December–April). These cuttings are finely chopped and bruised to promote oxidation, are then moistened and layered (a “sweating” step), and finally are dried. During this processing, the green leaves turn red, yielding a flavor that is somewhat woody, sweet, and creamy.
Honeybush (Cyclopia sp.) is also known as mountain or cape tea, and has yellow, honey-scented flowers; native to South Africa, its needle-like leaves are plucked from the shrubs that grow in the wild. Honeybush is processed like rooibos, although the leaves may be heated during the sweating stage.
This tea is low in tannins, high in antioxidants, and considered to be caffeine free. It has an earthy flavor that is subtly sweet. Both Honeybush and a fruity honeybush blend are available at TeaHaus.