Tanzania is one of the largest producers of tea in Africa after Kenya, Malawi and Uganda, producing around 1% of the worlds tea.
Tea plants were originally introduced to the country by German settlers in 1902 and commercial tea production started in Tanzania in 1926 and took off after the end of world war two. Until Tanzania gained independence in 1961 the tea was predominantly controlled by foreign governments but was quickly nationalised when the country became a republic.
Big tea estates soon became extremely prosperous to the detriment of independent smallholders. However more recently there has been a huge effort to encourage small scale production. Smallholders are still encouraged and supported and now account for around half of the countries tea production, making Tanzania one of the few tea producing countries where the large estates don’t dominate the market. This predominance of small scale production is not only good for the growers, it allows for a higher quality of tea production.
Tanzania produces an attractive, brightly coloured black tea with a strong flavour and fruity character. It is predominantly exported and used in blending but 20% of the tea produced in consumed locally.
Like many tea producers Tanzania is being hit hard by recent droughts and production this year has been significantly less than was expected. It’s not all doom and gloom though. Whilst Tanzania is expected to miss it’s target of 35,000 tons of tea this year a drive towards more extensive planting and a wider use of fertilisers should produce record crops for next year.
Tanzania is a country which takes the quality and success of it’s tea production very seriously and there is no risk of a permanent decline in exports any time soon which is very good news for the rest of us.