Kiambethu Tea Farm: Kenya’s Oldest Commercial Tea Farm
Located in Limuru, about 40 minutes’ drive from Nairobi is Kiambethu Tea Farm in a lush countryside setting of about 7,000 metres. The drive leading up to the farm is therapeutic as the air is fresh, clean and crisp and the green picturesque landscape of tea plantations is a sight to behold. We finally arrive at one of Kenya’s oldest and most renowned tea farm.
Upon arrival tea is served and we were ushered into the main house to learn more about tea. Our host Fiona Vernon shares that Kiambethu is their family farmhouse. Her grandfather Arnold Butler McDonell, better known as AB McDonell bought 350 acres from the British government to farm tea. AB McDonell was the first person to grow, make and sell tea commercially in Kenya. In 1926, he became the first commercial tea producer in the history of Africa establishing a thriving tea industry. AB died at the age of 98 and was the founder of Limuru Girls School located across the tea farm and also helped design and build All Saints Church Limuru.
His daughter Evelyn took over the farm after his retirement and introduced guided tours to tourists in the 1960s. Following Evelyn’s passing on in 1998; her daughter Fiona Vernon took over the management of the farm. Whilst the family has sold most of the original 350 acres, 35 remain with them and 2 acres are devoted to tea. The present house is set amidst beautiful manicured lawns; colorful gardens dotted with flowers that attract sunbirds buzzing from one bud to the next. As Fiona concludes her talk, he shares on the different tea trees varieties, tea picking techniques employed to harvest tea, and the tea processing procedures used.
After the talk, their local guide takes us on a short walk to a nearby indigenous forest that offers birdwatching opportunities. A brief insight on some of the medicinal plants and indigenous trees found in the forest and their traditional use provides a deeper appreciation on the need to conserve them. As we leave we manage to catch a glimpse of the resident colobus monkeys and the clouds clear up offering a commanding view of the Ngong Hills. A walk through the tea plantation edge offers tea picking demonstration where tea pickers pluck the top two leaves and bud from each tea branch. Our guides elaborates that tea requires good rainfall which is experienced in Limuru throughout the year and share more on the conditions needed for the growth of tea.
Hunger pangs kick in following our nature walk and the cold and chilly Limuru weather has made our hands and nose cold. We are guided to the dining area and our three-course meal begins with pumpkin soup, followed by roast chicken with rice, I opted for cake and custard for dessert. We had our afternoon tea for the much needed warmth as we said our goodbyes and set off to Nairobi.
Contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org or Call, Text or Whatsapp +254 732 281 432 for a tranquil insight into the life of a settler farm, a memorable visit to an indigenous forest, an edutour on growing tea and a delicious three-course meal at Kiambethu Tea Farm.