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Beguiling black tea from the land of a thousand hills

As a tea-growing region, Rwanda is still rather unknown and looks back on a comparatively short tea history. But the hilly country in East Africa with its altitudes of over 2,000 metres offers ideal conditions for tea cultivation. Tea has been produced in Rwanda since the mid-1950s, mostly in CTC (crush, tear, curl) quality. As is common in many African countries, tea drinkers in Rwanda prefer strong black tea and therefore rely heavily on the production of broken tea. Light, flowery black tea, which is particularly popular in Germany, is rather frowned upon here. For the tea experts at TeaGschwendner, it was therefore clear that their know-how was in demand to make Rwandan tea interesting for the German tea market as well.

Originally, a tea project was planned

In February 2021, TeaGschwendner had its first contact with Jean-Marie Irakabaho, agricultural advisor of Oikocredit International, a cooperative that provides financial support to partner organisations in the global South. The idea of a tea project with the Karongi Tea Estate in Rwanda was born, very similar to the already successfully implemented projects of TeeGschwendner and GIZ in Nepal or Myanmar. The plan was to invest in a processing plant for orthodox tea and to provide machinery and know-how for the production of high-quality loose leaf tea as desired for the German market.
But when Thomas Holz and Daniel Mack personally set off for Rwanda in October of the same year, they were in for a surprise on site: the machines were already there and the teamakers of Karongi had already started producing orthodox tea! However, still with a high percentage of broken tea of about 35%, as was shown during the tasting. The machines with which the tea was produced came from Sri Lanka, as did the technicians who instructed in the operation of the equipment. The fact that in Sri Lanka preferably very strong black tea is produced was thus reflected in the result of the Karongi tea. "Wonderful for the local market and tea-drinking nations like England, where they also prefer very strong, malty black teas. But for the German tea market, we wanted to achieve a delicate floral aroma," Daniel Mack reports.
No. 802
Rwanda Karongi FTGFOP1 Kwitanga
from €7.80*

(€78.00* / Kilogram)

Impressive commitment for a high-quality product

At first, it was necessary to convince the still sceptical colleagues from Rwanda to change the production process in order to produce a lighter tea. But the experiment was finally dared, the pressure reduced, the process changed and thus the amount of Broken Tea considerably reduced. The result is convincing in every respect: a beautiful, beguiling black tea with an intense, copper-red cup and a wonderfully floral aroma.
The high quality of the tea leaves grown at over 2,000 m and the dedication and craftsmanship of the teamakers at Karongi are evident here. With great commitment and entrepreneurial spirit, the Rwandan tea farmers have created a great product that will meet with great enthusiasm among German tea drinkers, of that we are convinced. That is why we were happy to pay a correspondingly high price for the tea - the highest price ever paid in Rwanda for an orthodox tea!
Besides the loose black tea No. 802 Rwanda Karongi Kwitanga, broken teas from Karongi will also find their way into our premium tea assortment, for example in the black tea blend O'Sullivan's Favourite No. 762.

The environment also benefits: NABU reforestation project in Rwanda

Not only the Rwandan tea farmers benefit from the cooperation, but also the local environment: to compensate for our carbon footprint, TeaGschwendner supports a reforestation project of the German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) in the region. Through the newly established trade relationship with Rwanda, the idea came up to also look for a suitable climate compensation project here. The choice fell on the "Habitat Restoration and Protection" project, which NABU International has now successfully implemented together with the Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association and the Schlegel Foundation. A total of 20,000 indigenous trees were planted in the Rugezi swamp area. The measures protect the important wetland habitat and safeguard biodiversity. The reforestation project also directly involved the local population to sensitise them to the importance of landscape protection and the resulting benefits.
The reforestation of the islands and slopes around the Rugezi Marsh, the most important tropical marsh in Rwanda, is a central building block for the protection of this area. It prevents further eutrophication of the marsh and makes an important contribution to climate and nature protection. The implementation of the project under the professional guidance of our partner Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association by the local communities creates jobs and alternative income opportunities. With TeeGschwendner, we have a strong partner from the business world at our side, which makes it possible for us to implement this outstanding project for climate and nature protection.
Olaf Tschimpke, former President of NABU (from 2003-2019)

Aktuelle Fortschritte beim NABU-Aufforstungsprojekt

Es geht voran in der Rugezi Marsh! Mit Stand April 2024 wurde schon Einiges erreicht, wie der NABU berichtet:
  • In Miyove, Gicumbi-District, wurden 0,5 Hektar Land erworben, das Gebiet steht nun unter vollständigem Schutz und wird durch RWCA aufgeforstet. 
  • Es gab 2 große Pflanzaktionen, bei der 1.400 heimische Bäume gepflanzt wurden. 
  • 79 Gemeindemitgliedern konnte eine kurzfristige Anstellung gesichert werden, um bei der Aufforstung der Rugezi Marsh zu helfen. 
  • Erstmalig wurden wieder verwendbare Pflanztöpfe benutzt. Diese sind nicht nur umweltfreundlicher, sondern erlauben den Setzlingen auch, bessere Wurzeln zu bilden. So wachsen die Jungpflanzen besser im Boden an. 
  • Das Gebiet wird von 3 ausgebildeten Gemeindemitgliedern, sogenannten Conservation Champions, überwacht und gepflegt.
  • In der Eastern Province wurden insgesamt 25 Hektar Land erworben. 
  • Invasive Arten wurden entfernt und durch heimische Pflanzen ersetzt. Diese Aktivität wird noch bis Ende des Jahres vervollständigt werden. 
  • Die Baumschule wurde erneuert, mit einem verbesserten Wassersystem versehen und auch hier wurden wieder verwendbare Pflanztöpfe eingeführt. 
  • In 2023 konnten 23.000 Setzlinge von insgesamt 20 verschiedenen Sorten aufgezogen werden. 
  • Nebenbei entstehen ein Best Practice Handbuch sowie ein Monitoring-Leitfaden, um die Bauschule zu einer der besten im Land zu entwickeln.