The Great Rift -
This day has been absolutely breathtakingly beautiful!
Even the breakfast buffet
We started our morning bright and early at 6 with a group breakfast. Since the restaurant was basically empty, I was able to get some photos of the selection.
The rainbow of fruit juices
Plethora of breads, from croissants to muffins to rye to carrot cake
Fresh tropical fruits
The hot buffet
I chose to try the yogurt today (it was pasteurized) and was happy to have some again. Love my yogurt! Tummy: so far, so good!
I topped the yogurt with granola, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds + pumpkin seeds. Plus I had some eggs for protein, 2 potatoes/plantains?, and a slice of carrot cake bread with PEANUT BUTTER! And a small glass of tropical fruit juice.
And a Kenyan coffee, for the caffeine.
We drove through Nairobi for the first time during the daylight so we got to see some of the city. So many people were out and about at 7am, and the traffic was quite busy!
We arrived at the airport – I was nervous.
Especially seeing the runway in front of us…
But once we were airborne – WOW. One of the coolest (the coolest?) experiences of my life. VIDEO TO COME!!!
The landscape changed immensely as we traveled west – from plateau to valley to farmland to forest to tea. (Click to enlarge). We had the pleasure of riding with Richard Fairburn, the managing director here at the estate. He told us all these cool facts.
This is the divide between the escarpment and the Great Rift Valley where the earth is splitting apart. It’s a 2,000 foot drop!
We also flew over a dormant volcano – Suswa.
The Mau Forest. 300,000 acres full of green and elephants! This forest is the reason tea exists here. The weather pattern is super important – water from Lake Victoria, which is 100km away, evaporates in the hot weather and floats via clouds until it dumps rains on the forest and tea estates. Without these forest to induce the rain, there would be no towns, no tea.
The forest is shrinking from encroaching people and is being burned at the edges, as you can barely see in this photo. I suppose there are two sides to every story, but it’s still sad to think of such a massive forest shrinking –
Then we flew over TEA!! It was bright green – like a patchwork quilt
I made it!
Upon arrival, we had refreshments. I enjoyed some Kericho Estate Tea and mango heaven!
And sampled a tea cake, a mysterious citrus fruit and PASSION FRUIT, which I’ve never had! It was like pomegranate with the crunchy seeds with a tropical flavor. Yummy!
I also tried the Lipton Vanilla Caramel Truffle – loved this! I’ve seen it at Harris Teeter – why have I not had it before!?
We spent the morning learning all about the estate. I have about 10 pages of notes! Here are some highlights of what I learned:
- While the tea estates used to dominate the market, since the 1980s the smallholder tea farms predominate the Kenya tea production industry producing 62% of the tea. There are now 27 large tea estates, Unilever being the largest and producing 11% of Kenya’s tea.
- Lipton’s tea is exported to Egypt (24% in dust form), the UK (17% in teabag form), Pakistan (16% in packets) and the rest (19%, including USA).
- Lipton’s labor costs are the bulk of their operating costs. Wages have increased by 200% in the past 10 years, which is higher than normal inflation.
- Why plant tea in Kenya instead of North Carolina? According to professional tea tasters, Kenyan tea (and other teas grown along the equator) is higher in quality in leaf appearance + shape, color (it produces an orangey-red color), and taste (like wine rankings, tea is also ranked according to flavor). Kenyan tea is also higher in antioxidants, which is most likely an effect of location (year round warm temps) and altitude.
- Eucalyptus is planted all over the estate and used as a renewable energy source of fuel when it is used to heat boilers to create steam to dry the tea.
- The Rainforest Alliance was chosen as a way to have a third party verify the work of the estate towards a sustainable future and best practices in labor and operations. The audit criteria is surprisingly not all environmental – 47% of criteria relates to fair conditions and social benefits of workers, 24% is natural resource conservation and the rest is operations, such as waste management.
- While wages are 3x the minimum wage of the agriculture industry, the benefits of working at the estate are significant: free housing, free healthcare, and free education (and from what I saw today, those are all very good). Most parents save their wages to send their kids to university. This past year the estate leaders gave “long service awards” to 400-500 employees who have worked there for 10-15+ years.
- More Lipton Facts:
- Lipton grows over 20,000 acres here in Kenya and makes 36,000 tons of tea (19 billion tea bags!)
- There are 16,000 employees on the estate with 80,000 dependents
- 80% of the estate’s energy is produced on site and in 2 years they hope to be 100% self sufficient.
- Lipton sent 54 students from the estate and local community to university last year along with 30 university scholarships
- The company helps the local community outside of the estate in many ways, such as donating trees for planting and offering health care resources.
- Over 2 million people are affected globally by Unilever’s supply chain. That’s a lot of people living for my daily cup of tea!
I know that was a lot of info, but I found it all very fascinating. Overall, I took this away from the day: The estate here at Kericho is a role model for other estates. Only 10% of Lipton’s tea comes from Kericho, so what about the rest? They are hoping this estate will lead the industry as an example for change, and hope to have all the estates certified by 2015. It’s a long process, but they will not just stop with a few estates. They are 8 estates to the way there already.
After our info sessions, we had lunch!
Empanadas – a beef and a veggie
A tomato + cuc griled sandwich and a cheese + lettuce sandwich half –
and cream of carrot soup!! It was a lovely lunch
Accompanied by soda water –
And a gorgeous setting!
And new friends. Everyone is SO nice.
After lunch we headed up to one of the four primary schools on the estate – and passed a guy on a bike with a stack of hay 3x his size!!
Seeing the school was amazing. The kids were so cute and brilliant!! They were so well-behaved and focused on their work!
And they were smart as whips!! The teacher was doing all kinds of geometry and I could barely keep up. The kids repeated each sentence after him and were getting all the answer>s right
After the school visit we went to see the hospital
The hospital has 85 beds and is the top center over 4 health centers and over 20 dispensaries for minor illnesses. All of the health care is free, and they put a strong emphasis on preventative care. They have seminars on HIV frequently before the morning plucking sessions begin as well as annual exams with everyone to meet with the doctor and discuss any risks they might have in their live like stress or alcohol. The top reasons for admission are 1) Respiratory infections 2) Joint and back pain and 3) Eye infections. HIV is not a top trouble, thanks to an effective preventative care program, and they also have full treatment plans for those who have the disease. I was pleased see nutrition was a high priority in treatment! They also offer a bunch of different kinds of contraception, immunize 98% of infants, and have a “vitality program” for general wellness and fitness. I was truly impressed – it was all very professional.
When asked why they still had the private health care, I liked Richard’s response:
“Until the government can take care of our people, we will”
A bed in the maternity ward with a little bassinet on the end! We saw a woman who was in labor and one who had given birth the day before
I got to speak with one of the directors about the nutrition work they do with the HIV/AIDS patients. I have to say, this trip has piqued my internet in global nutrition. Maybe not as a full time career, but perhaps as an annual trip of some kind (cost permitting, of course).
She said many of them come in malnourished and they emphasize a balanced diet with regular meals. Like so:
When we returned to the main house, I grabbed a snack – a mini banana and a shortbread.
We all met for a drink before we broke to go to our guest houses. I had this Kenyan beer, Tusker, which was awesome! Kind of like Corona meets a wheat beer. (Kanz, you would love it! I would bring you one except for the airplane liquids rule.)
We snacked on some “chips”
And masala peanuts. I had a few of each.
Then we were taken to our guesthouses, which are so charming! But the scenery is just breathtaking.
And avocados!! With our host Thomas!
My room. I am using the mosquito net just for fun!
Kath Eats Kenyan Food
Then I had the privilege of helping our host Thomas cook a traditional Kenyan staple: Ugali. Here’s a site I found on some more info on the staple: Kenya Imagine.
VIDEO TO COME!!!!
More dinner ingredients. Gulp! Freshly caught from Lake Victoria.
I am sharing a guest house with two others and we sipped on some wine while the rest of dinner cooked
For dinner we started with a cream of carrot soup, which was just pureed carrots and broth and spices but was so good!
Bread. I love bread.
And then we were served!!! The huge mound is the ugali (which I loved but barely ate half of!), plus greens, rice and a really delicious piece of chicken in a spicy sauce. I only finished about half my plate, but it was all very good!! See below for a topping addition!
I did taste the fish – they were very fishy but not bad! Probably full of calcium from their bones
For dessert we had Kenyan pineapple topped with strawberry ice cream, which was kind of like a cross between shaved ice and sorbet.
WOW, I am so tired and that took me a very long time!! I’ll be back tomorrow night after a day of tea plucking, hydroelectric power and a Kenyan party!!