A focus on Kericho, Kenya, the Tea Growing Hub
Kericho is a town in Kenya in the Kericho County which is located within the west highlands of the Kenyan rift valley. Kericho plays home to the biggest water catchment area in Kenya, the Mau Forest. With the high altitude and practically daily rains, this county is the center of the largest tea industry in the country. The town square is even named, Chai Square. A number of the most prominent tea companies such as James Finlay, Unilever and Williamson are found here. Kericho is also home to the prevalent Ketepa brand. Most of the tea grown here is exported, especially to the UK which is the largest market for Kenyan tea. The town bears a population of approximately 150,000 and general population of above 500,000 according to the 2009 census.
Kericho is the home to Kenya Tea Development Authority and also the headquarters of the Kenya large-scale tea farming operations including Williamson, Finlay and Unilever. The region is prominent globally for its production of highest quality of black tea that is prized for its brightness, brisk flavor, appealing color and fragrant leaves.
Transport system in Kericho County is comparatively good. The main transport mode to and around is by road. There are three major highways which lead to Kericho town; The Kisumu-Kericho, Nakuru-Kericho and the Kericho –Kisii highway. Railway transport is available from Londiani, Fort tenan and kipkelion stations, the major hubs of agriculture within the county.
The communication infrastructure in Kericho is equally respectable as it is the home to one of the 2 satellite earth stations, which are the only existing international link for the country. The town is additionally served by the fiber optic cable connection. The entire county is served by the fixed line operator (Telkom Kenya) and four handset operators namely YU, Airtel, Safaricom and orange
There are several colleges in Kericho beginning with the Kabianga university at the Kericho west district. Kabianga has campuses in Kericho town, sigor in Bomet and Kapkatet which offers biological science training. Other universities and colleges are the Kenya Highlands Evangelical University, University of Nairobi and the Kenyatta University. Religiously, Kericho residents are mainly Christians, most of who attend the Africa Gospel Church. There are however other churches such as the AIC, SDA, Full Gospel and the Roman Catholic church.
Exotic house is a restaurant located 6 kilometers from the town, along Kericho-Sotic highway and directly opposite Kericho Aerodrome overlooking gorgeous and beautiful scenery of the natural Mau forest, the evergreen tea plantations and the hilly countryside. Exotic house has all en-suite spacious rooms, with internet connectivity and satellite TV. The restaurant entertains its guests with both local and international cuisine, and has excellent facilities for workshops, seminars and state conferences
Located 20 kilometers from Kericho town to the west of the Kenyan Rift Valley highlands are several of the largest tea plantations in the world. The massive lush green, well-tended tea farms are interrupted only by eucalyptus and indigenous forests, paved foot paths and well-marked tarmac roads. This place is a complete contrast of the endless noise from concrete and cars in Kericho town. Here the air changes to cool and quiet from cold. The atmosphere is calm and captures the orderly environment which is complemented by the magnificent landscape that summarizes the picture and the James Finlay estate. The estate covers an area of about 11,000 hectares and produces more than 30 million kilos of tea every year. It is one among the largest tea establishments in the white highlands.
The valleys of the estate tend to stretch as far as the eye can possibly see. A substantially large area of the estate is covered by a canopy of very old indigenous forests with some hilly, raised parts under eucalyptus plantations which provide a beautiful landscape. The tea plantations from above look like lawns when observed against a background of forests. The tea plantation has 2,500 hectares of eucalyptus trees and 1,500 hectares of indigenous forest and is self-reliant with sustainable timber.
There are two flower farms, two tea extract industrial units and four black tea factories in Kericho. Energy requirements here are significant for both production of the required steam for manufacturing process and for electrical power. Finlay has developed private site-specific hydroelectric amenities that meet this need. Hydro produces 85 percent of electrical energy in the estate. A small combined power and heat facility generates 10 percent of the electrical power, and another 5 percent is derived from generation of diesel thereby reducing the dependence on the grid of the country. Finlay is most famous for its production of black and instant tea 95 percent of which is exported and reaches the global market of Europe and North America through weekly auctions at tea auctions in Mombasa. The largest European export market is the United Kingdom which is marked at 17 % with Egypt taking 21 percent. The balance of the tea that is not exported is sold locally within the country where tea is often taken three times in a day at dawn and frequently after dinner.