Tea in Rwanda
Tea in Rwanda is grown in the volcanic regions of the country where the climate and fertile soils together make the most ideal environment for the tea to grow. Tea was first introduced to Rwanda in 1952 years after coffee was introduced so the farmers’ reception to the tea was warm and accepting.
This made the tea-growing catch on faster and as of today, tea next to coffee is the largest cash crop grown in the country. Tea in Rwanda is grown on several hills of the country on large plantations by both private tea growers and tea cooperatives. Rwanda tea is characterised by its rich and bold flavor and this is all attributed to the areas in which it is grown; the areas are mountain slopes and have high altitudes that contribute to the richness of the tea.
When the tea is harvested from different plantations, the tea leaves are processed in tea factories that are spread across the country. After the tea leaves are processed, the finished product is distributed across the country for local consumption and the bigger percentage exported to other countries.
Some tea plantations and factories are open to visitors all through the year and those plantations and factories are the ones you visit on your tea tour to give you a chance to discover and learn about the richness in Rwanda Tea, its harvesting and processing of course with an opportunity to taste this unique and rich tea.
Most of the tea tours in Rwanda take place around Nyungwe National Park in Gisoyu and Gisakura though there are other places in the country that are open to the public, these two are the most visited and accessible.
Gisovu: Located at the edge of Nyungwe National Park in the North; the tea plantations are just against the great Nyungwe forest. The tea estate offers you great scenery of green wavering and shining leaves and they are blown in all sides by the wind. On a tour to this estate, you will appreciate the different stages tea goes through before it is finally in your cup. You will participate in the cupping ceremony, get a chance to do some mountain biking on several terrains and interact with the amazing community around Nyungwe forest especially the tea growers.
Gisakura: Gisakura tea estate is the most popular tea plantation area in Rwanda just in the west of the great Nyungwe forest and Nyungwe National Park. This estate is the most visited tea estate of all the tea estates in Rwanda. Gisakura is the exquisitely beautiful with great green scenery and has refreshing breezes that give you such a wonderful experience on your tour. On this tour you enjoy a walk through the tea plantations, of course, get to taste the breath taking tea, interact with the locals and engage in the different activities that make you appreciate the unique Rwanda culture.
Pfunda: This is believed to be the largest tea estate in the country and the one that has the highest production of tea compared to other tea plantations in the country. The estate stretches across a hundred of hectares and employs a range of farmers. This estate lies just below the Virunga Volcano and the volcanic slopes have the most fertile soil for tea growth. The soils are formations of the erupted soils of the volcanoes and these soils combined with the high altitudes of the volcanic slopes give the perfect environment and soils for high-quality tea.
Depending on the time of year you visit you will see the farmers planting seeds, tending the mid grown plantations and also harvesting the tea. Like on the other plantations you will also get the chance to taste this rich Rwanda Tea.
On all the tea plantation tours, chances are high you will bump into some primates like the colobus monkeys because they live in the patches of the great Nyungwe forest.
All tea plantation tours take about 3 to 4 hours or more if you are not in the hurry to get back to your hotel. Though, you can request for the tour to take about 2 hours if you are really tight up on time.
All tea plantation tours are booked through a tour operator or Rwanda Development Board; you will not be able to book a tour with the tea farmers or plantation owners.
Though all tours are done and guided by the tea farmers or the different cooperatives in the area.
All the tea plantations are next to well-vanished and equipped accommodation with good and up to date facilities that will suit all your needs, so you can opt to have a full day tea plantation tour and then sleep at one of the nearby accommodations.
If that is not your plan, you can have your tour in Virunga and then head back to Kigali, however if you have your tea plantation tour in Nyungwe, you will need to sleep in Nyungwe because you cannot do a return journey from Nyungwe after a 3 to 4 hour-plus tour.
That said your tour operator will give you all the guidelines of the trip and you will surely enjoy your tea plantation tour in Rwanda.