Our Farm Blog

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Save A Wild Life

Save a Wild Life

We are very excited to unveil our very special new baby, a tea caddy created specially for the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Many people refer to us as the 'elephant tea'; the African elephant that adorns each silver box and collectable tea caddy is the symbol of our long standing commitment to environmentally friendly and sustainable farming.

Our new Mother & Child tea caddy has been created to raise funds for the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT). Born from one family's passion for Kenya and its wilderness, the DSWT is today the most successful orphan elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world.

Donations from this stunning Mother & Child tea caddy will provide lifesaving care for orphaned baby elephants, together with training and deployment of fully equipped Anti-Poaching Rangers, to eliminate the poaching threat and provide long term security for elephant populations in Africa for years to come.

The caddy beautifully illustrates the happiness of a mother elephant and her baby in their natural habitat. Inside our Master Blenders have crafted Kenyan High Grown, a bright, refreshing tea blend, which bring to every home the unrivalled quality of Kenyan tea. £1 from the sale of each Williamson Tea Mother & Child Caddy will go to the DSWT orphan elephant and rehabilitation project. Together we can help save elephants from extinction.


Monday, 24 November 2014

A Beneficial Brew!

A Beneficial Brew

"From bitter to fruity and mellow, these teas will warm you up, give you energy and benefit your skin" says Kate Shapland of the Telegraph Magazine. Featured as an antioxidant rich and skin friendly tea, our Pure Green Loose is proving a hit with the health and wellbeing conscious consumer.

Our Pure Green tea is grown and produced exclusively on our Tinderet farm, known as the place of lightening high in the Kenyan hills. Tinderet is famed for its beautiful floral teas and our Pure Green is manufactured differently to many other green teas, being made without fermentation. Fresh tea leaves are withered, cut and rolled then dried, maintaining all of the beneficial antioxidants and imparting a subtle, mellow and refreshing taste.

Tea's contain protective plant based antioxidants called Polyphenols, within which is a family of flavonoids that includes anthocyanin and catechin. Green and Purple teas from Kenya retain higher levels of antioxidants than teas from other origins due to their unique growing conditions and tea bush varieties imparting higher levels of polyphenols. These polyphenols have a 'radical scavenging capacity' helping to clear the body of harmful radicals and can help aid sense of health and wellbeing, perfect for feeling good in the cold and gloomy winter months!

#teafarmers #kateshapland #telegraphmagazine #beneficialbrew #beautynotebook 

Friday, 3 October 2014

Vive la Difference

A Tea Should Taste Of The Place Where It Is Made

When you stand beside the factory at Tinderet and look out over the slopes of tea and indigenous forest you cannot be struck by how beautiful Kenya is. The rich dark greens of the forest contrast with the lighter leaves of the Ejulu tea bushes and dark volcanic red of the soil. As soon as you walk into the factory the smell of fresh tea hits you and that distinctive deep earthy smell of a natural product. On Tinderet fresh green leaf is made into the black tea in little under 24 hours, fresh is an understatement and the farm's award winning teas are recognisable  for their brisk liquors and bright colours. 

As the season's move from dry to wet each year so the characteristics of the tea change. Tea is not a piece of plastic produced identically every day of the week, it is a living product effected by the climate and conditions it is grown in. But in the dog eat dog world of the supermarkets and their never ending price wars agricultural intensification and numerical imperialisation of natural products is demanded on an ever increasing scale. No one seems to calculate the quality that is sacrificed when agriculture is industrialised. Instead of celebrating the characteristics and seasonal changes of teas from individual farms, supermarkets demand standardised products all year round, rejecting anything that is not deemed correct in their spreadsheet dominated systems.

But tea should taste of where it is made and when it is blended with teas from all around the world then it loses its identity and becomes merely a man-made product manipulated by mechanical techniques instead of naturally tasting of the place where it is grown. Teas straight from the farmers should be celebrated and the unique flavours, liquors appreciated as they change throughout the year signalling the movement of the seasons, rather than being boring and generic!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

A Question of Certification

A Question of Certification

Rainforest Alliance's recent Follow the Frog week helps to raise the profile of sustainably produced products, but does it go far enough? Are truly sustainable products rewarded enough in the market place? At the moment an often simple one-size fits all mentality is applied to sustainable certifications, but is it time to differentiate and award an elusive A* to the very best sustainable and innovative products?

Consumer research would suggest that products need to be clear in the message they portray to avoid confusion, but the ethnically/sustainably produced consumer is traditionally a 'back of pack' reader, so surely more could be done to demonstrate how an A* product is produced to a higher level.

Take the hugely successful global retailer Whole Foods for example, they use a 5 Step Animal Welfare rating system, clearly differentiating between why one product is better than the next, easy to understand and implement. It would be interesting to do the same for tea! For example Energy could be one category, with the top grade growing their own sustainable energy through renewal timber plantations and utilising solar energy, to the bottom poorest certification using timber from indigenous forest. Consumers could then understand actually how the sustainability of products varies hugely despite appearing to be certified.

What would be even more interesting was if the percentage of the certified blend was revealed. How often does a product state a sustainable certification but when you read the pack only a minimum 50% is actually certified. Surely this should only be awarded an Orange light, or B at best rather than an A grade for sustainability and ability to apply the certification logo in full?! Brand's should reveal the sources on a percentage basis of their blends, removing the temptation to showcase only their A grade sources to the public, implying all of the tea in their packs is from these sources, whilst actually these sources only make up a tiny percentage of the blend.

Food for thought!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Solar Tea

Solar Tea

At the moment the world is highly dependent on fossil fuels for energy. There are three major issues which make this unsustainable. First, fossil fuels are very expensive, and only rising in price. Second Fossil fuels are finite and will eventually run out. Third and perhaps most importantly, they release large volumes of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere, causing climate change and hazardous weather. They are not a long term sustainable solution for the world.

Solar Power is simple, clean and cost effective. Unlike Fossil fuels, the sun's energy is guaranteed as the sun shines every day and will never run out. In a single hour the sun transmits more energy to the earth's surface than the world uses in a year!

Commissioned in May 2014 our Solar Park at Changoi is the first utility scale solar farm in East Africa. The size of the park is approximately 1.5 hectares, producing 1MWp, which means it produces 1,6000,000kWh of electricity per year. To put this into perspective since just 1kWh is enough to boil water for 40 cups, this system could boil enough water for every Kenyan to enjoy a cup of tea and maybe a second too!

Africa is not only the ideal location for tea but also for solar electricity too! Located on the equator where the sun is high in the sky all day, provides great conditions for getting the most out of a solar system, with 12 hours of daylight every day.

Not only does this renewable energy source play a significant part in meeting Kenya's growing power demands, both large scalar and small scale potential in Africa, but the solar industry creates jobs for skilled workers and labourers too. On Changoi about 60 people were working on site during construction with other involved with logistics in Nairobi.

The solar power system has been built as part of Williamson Tea's commitment to sustainable farming and a greener future for tea production.  The electricity produced at Changoi will prevent an estimated 20,000 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide from entering our atmosphere over its lifetime and the ystem provides enough power to enable the Changoi factory to run from solar produced electricity during daylight hours, enabling a massive reduction in energy use.

#solartea #farmingthesun

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Williamson Tea Foundation

Williamson Tea are proud to announce the launching of the Williamson Tea Foundation website.

Williamson Tea has been growing tea since 1869 and throughout five generations continues to farm sustainably. The Foundation funds projects that Williamson Tea undertakes as part of an instinctive commitment to caring for their farms and communities, a passion that goes far beyond the simple standards set by certification bodies.

Combining the needs of modern, dynamic agriculture without compromising the ability of future generations to enjoy the same unique conditions that Kenya offers tea farmers today is viewed as an essential mantra of Williamson Tea and with the effects of climate change and a rapidly expanding population the pressure on land in Africa is greater than ever before.

The Foundation invests in both social and environmental projects that aim to improve the farms to the benefits of both those that grow our tea and the land on which it grows. Health care and education is provided to thousands of farmers, their families and children, combating the challenges felt by rural communities in a modern age.
The foundation invests in farming models that are productive, resilient and resource efficient for the future.  It has invested significantly into renewable energy sources, solar photovoltaic and hydro-power systems, whilst actively seeks to encourage climate smart agriculture, carbon sequestration and conservation of water, soils and other natural resources.

As farmers and guardians of the land, the Williamson Tea Foundation ensures that every pack of Williamson Tea helps sustain communities and ecosystems for generations to come.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Green Vs Black, A Common Misconception

Green Vs Black, A Common Misconception

There's a common misconception that green tea contains less caffeine than black with many health conscious consumers selecting a cup of green as part of their efforts to reduce their caffeine intake.

As always with natural products the way is not clear cut. Black tea is generally made from Camelia Sinensis Assamica, whilst green from Camelia Sinensis Sinensis, the different varieties have different properties and Camelia Sinensis Assamica has naturally occurring higher levels of polypenols and caffeine. However in Kenya most green teas are made from the same Camelia Sinensis Assamica as are black, so have in general slightly higher level of caffeine than Asian varieties, but black and green are on par.

These fundamental differences in caffeine levels in the bushes are compounded by human intervention, with the more you pluck and process the leaves the less caffeine is available for absorption, so the coarser the leaf the lower the caffeine. Black involves more processing so offers less caffeine than the green.

But this matter is confused to the consumer as most green teabags in the UK tend to be 2grams rather than the 2.5grams with black. So the caffeine levels are lower but only through a reduced volume rather than true comparison.

Finally there is the variation of brew time, with the longer you brew the more caffeine that diffuses into the liquor, so human intervention again plays a crucial part in the differences in caffeine levels in both green and black tea.

Whilst its important to note that at Williamson Tea we are farmers and neither doctors nor scientists so cannot comment on personal caffeine consumption, Jenna Zoe of "Food's to Love" recently commented that "if you are someone who derives a lot of pleasure out of tea, the benefit could outweigh any slight negatives so tea has a net positive impact on overall wellbeing".

So go on and have a feel good brew!