Tea has been grown in Uganda since the days of the British Empire, first planted by Indian immigrants who brought their knowledge with them from plantations back home. Things progressed relatively smoothly for many years and although the industry never reached the size or status of that of neighbouring Kenya, during the mid twentieth century tea became one of the Uganda’s most important exports. All that changed on Aug. 4, 1972 when Edi Amin, who had recently seized government control in a military coup, demanded that all Indians leave the country. This included the people who owned and managed Uganda’s tea plantations. All business deemed to be “foreign owned”, even though much of the Indian population at the time was born in Uganda, their families having come over generations past, was seized and given to non-Indian citizens. The result? In many cases, tea estates came under the direction of owners had no experience and production began to suffer in terms of quantity and quality.
In 1994 the European Union backed a donation of $40 million to help the Ugandan tea growers, but, the road back for the industry has been as rocky as those leading to the tea estates and to this day, many Ugandan plantations suffer from a lack of available electricity and all suffer from high transport costs (Uganda is landlocked, so tea must be trucked to Mombassa, Kenya, for auction). Tea is Uganda’s 3rd largest export after fish and coffee and it provides sustainable employment.
One of the best examples of Uganda’s tea output is grown on Mitiyana Estate. In recent years, Mitiyana has begun producing premium loose leaf teas to compete with some of the more famous Kenyans. It is grown at 4000ft above sea level and is a BP1 (Broken Pekoe 1) with the leaves being cut, torn and curled in the production of this tea.
Uganda’s top estate produces a cup distinguished by malty African notes and creamy character. The tea has an expansive nose with astringent finish.
BP1 (Broken Pekoe #1)
“Thank God for Tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? Am I glad I was not born before tea?”