Kericho, named after the early English tea planter John Kerich, is Kenya’s tea capital, a fact that – with much hype from the tourism machine embellished by the presence of the Tea Hotel – is not likely to escape you. Its equable climate and famously reliable, year-round afternoon rain showers make it the most important tea-growing area in Africa. While many of the European estates have been divided and reallocated to small farmers since independence, the area is still dominated by giant tea plantations.
This is tea country: Kenya is the world’s third-largest producer after India and Sri Lanka, and the biggest exporter to Britain. As you gaze across the dark green hills, you might pause to consider that the land, now covered in vast regimented swathes of tea bushes, was, until not much more than a century ago, virgin rainforest, only a tiny part of which, the Kakamega Forest, survives. The estates were first set up after World War I with tea bushes imported from India and China.