Ngorongo Tea is adopting modern processes and an enriching ethos in order to widen the influence of Kenfresh’s brand and products more concertedly across East Africa
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Joshua Mann
Recognised as one of Kenya’s ‘big six’ tea producers, Ngorongo Tea’s rapidly expanding brand is quenching thirsts around the East African country and beyond.
Operating as Kenfresh’s tea brand, the subsequent clout and influence that emanates from the parent company through the subsidiary has been palpable since inception in 2003; providing a turnkey approach which gives consumers access to fresh tea that is both manufactured and packaged at source.
“We manufacture, pack and sell black tea out of Cianda, Karuri Sub County in Kiambu County on Kiambu Limuru Road,” the Company introduces. “We began small with no brand name and have grown to this level of having a brand name that can stand out even in the international market… delivering products to clients as well as doing contract packing for tea companies who do not own their own facility or who have not yet acquired machinery.”
As a 100 percent Kenyan-owned entity operating across 200 hectares of plantation, two manufacturing factories, and a packing plant, the scope on-hand to infiltrate the Kenyan market is almost unrivalled; as is its footprint.
More than 80 percent of production is still sold at auction in Kenya as with most companies in the industry, while the remaining 20 percent goes into the brand and is sold as Kenfresh. Products can then be purchased out of Kiambu, Nairobi and peripheral countries, as well as across retail shops in different towns and even in hospitals, schools and hotels to further affirm the Company’s saturation within the region.
And across each of these potential outlets, consumers have become familiar with Kenfresh Tea bags – tagged and untagged – Kenfresh Premium and Kenfresh Blend; all of which come in a variety of packaging sizes.
Regarding the products’, and the Company as a whole’s differentiators, the Company lists: ”The tea is grown and produced in the best ecological zone for tea culture in the Kenyan highlands; the tea is processed from the best quality green leaf produced from the company estates; the tea is manufactured and packed fresh at source with the benefits of the best clonal variability; the tea is superior as premium/ primary pure grades are packed; there is no product blending; the product safety is guaranteed with a good product traceability system; the product has the best price compared to other premium teas in Kenya; and the product is packed in an excellent eco-friendly packaging material.”
Processing tea is an art
“After picking, the leaves of C. sinensis soon begin to wilt and oxidise unless immediately dried. An enzymatic oxidation process triggered by the plant’s intracellular enzymes causes the leaves to turn progressively darker as their chlorophyll breaks down and tannins are released,” the Company expertly details the tea manufacturing process. “This darkening is stopped at a predetermined stage by heating, which deactivates the enzymes responsible. In the production of black teas, halting by heating is carried out simultaneously with drying.”
The explanation continues: “Without careful moisture and temperature control during manufacture and packaging, growth of undesired moulds and bacteria may make tea unfit for consumption. This means processing tea is an art and we are proud to follow all the required steps.”
The overall process is a complicated, complex and long one from farm to shelf on the face of it. However, Ngorongo Tea’s turnkey, in-house capabilities ensure that the seemingly challenging value chain becomes a streamlined strategic approach with quality etched across each phase.
The process includes green leaf reception; green leaf spreading and withering; rolling; fermentation; drying; cleaning and fibre separation; grade sorting; pre-packaging; packing; dispatch; marketing; and outsourced after-sales services.
And on an ongoing basis, the Company continues to invest in new technologies, machinery, equipment and skills development initiatives to ensure that each phase is evolving as an individual entity before contributing to the overall development of the business model.
Recent developments to this end include a heightened adoption of automation, epitomised by numerous machinery upgrades in the fields, the factories and the packing plant.
Compounding Ngorongo Tea’s commitment to wider Kenyan enrichment as a whole is a concerted corporate social responsibility focus, which embraces both the Company’s core business activities as well as peripheral community initiatives.
“The management of Ngorongo Tea Company affirms its commitment to creating and maintaining the good relationship with its neighbours and the entire community,” a statement on the website clarifies. “To achieve this, the Company endeavours to involve the public through public involvement forums annually; to assist the community in environmental education through a joint effort with the Government whenever reasonable, and within the Company’s capacity; and to remain open and robust on issues that are of concern to the community.”
From an environmental perspective such dedication to national upliftment includes a stringent wildlife protection policy across its sites and presence points, as well as an equally successful restoration policy.
The Company continues: “The company policy is to ensure that there is a balance between economic activities and the conservation of the environment for the sustainable use of available natural resources. In order to achieve this, the Company aims to restore to the best of its ability all sites depleted of the required materials in order to maintain the productivity of the area.”
On a more charitable note, the Company has looked to involve itself in many projects of the years, edging into areas of education, healthcare, the services, utilities and civil engineering.
Work alongside the Githiga Children’s Home, Cianda Dispensary and Gatatha Police Post, Kamiti Ruwa Water User’s Association and Limuru Tea Road Cess Committee illustrates each area respectively and have helped to affirm Ngorongo Tea’s and Kenfresh’s responsible and sustainable standing within the Kenyan economy over the years.
Moving forward, the Company and Group will look to maintain this momentum via even more local affiliations as well as further upgrades to its on-site facilities, increased innovation across speciality products, and a revamped marketing campaign to help spread the international growth of Kenfresh as a brand more concertedly.