Imagine my elation when I learned that not only was I going to Rwanda, but that I'd have time to see a tea field while there! Part of my team spent the weekend in the Virunga Mountains, and it just so happened that Pfunda Tea Company had tea fields in the area. Lucky, lucky, lucky me! My heartfelt thanks to my teammates who were not only good sports about visiting the tea field, but also advocated for me to ensure that it happened! (I think they even had fun.)
The tea grown in Rwanda is predominantly made into black tea, though I was lucky to drink some Rwandan green. I'll talk more about the method of tea processing and economics in another post. For now, I want to focus on the beautiful tea field!
We visited the tea field in the mid afternoon, after the day's picking was complete. We didn't see any tea pickers here, but we did find a weigh station nearby. I will share that in the next post.
Rwanda's elevation, equatorial climate and volcanic soil make a hospitable environment for growing tea. Over 90% of Rwanda's tea is exported. In fact, coffee and tea combined (in about equal measure) make up nearly four-fifths of Rwandan agricultural exports. If the Rwandan tea market is of interest to you, check out this article.
Rwandan tea, to the best of my knowledge, is picked by hand, typically by women. Even thought it's mostly prepared for the CTC market, low labor prices allow for hand picking. I wasn't able to definitively confirm this, but based on conversations I'm also led to believe that tea is picked year-round. This makes sense, given the steady and moderate climate.
Rwanda is called the "Land of a Thousand Hills." You can see why from this picture. Any direction you look, you see hills nearby and mountains in the distance.
In another post I will explore the effects of the genocide on the tea industry in Rwanda. For now, please enjoy these beautiful tea fields!