Harriet James @PeopleDailyKe
For years, I have always flattered myself about my knowledge of tea and its growing areas. However, all these notions changed when I visited Kericho recently, a town that boasts large-scale tea farms.
A land of rolling green hills, Kericho is home to the first public hospital built by the British. Kericho comes from kerichek, meaning medicine in the Kipsigis dialect.
The town was once home to a renowned medicine man, Kerich. I traveled at night, something that I don’t enjoy because one doesn’t get to see how beautiful the land is.
I struggled to stay alert, taking short naps, browsing on my mobile phone to keep tabs on social world. I gazed into the clear skies often, wondering what the green town had in store for me.
My destination was Kericho Tea Hotel, located at the centre of the tea-growing in Kericho county, keen to learn more about tea and of course for a breath of fresh air, far away from the polluted Nairobi city.
It’s a five hour-drive from Nairobi, approximately 266km. You can also use the Eldoret International Airport 91km away, or the Kisumu International Airport, a 45-minute drive.
I arrived at the hotel late at night and was picked up from the bus stop by the hotel staff. Being too tired, I slept till morning waiting for my trip to the tea farm the following day.
I was welcomed with a hot cup of Kericho Tea by a waiter, long before breakfast. This is the hotel’s signature appreciation once you arrive and having arrived late, I could only drink the delicious brew in the morning.
I sat outside, enjoying the scenic view of tea plantations and the Mau forest. The hotel manager, Edgar Mutai, came to brief me on the trip.
When I asked him how the tea—which made me fall in love with this place —was made, he was a little bit hesitant, only revealing how the hotel personalised the brewing with fresh produce from tea factories.
“The recipe is our secret but all I can say is that we sample the factories for best quality tea. The staff are well trained in making the tea to ensure consistency is attained,” he said.
Mutai nostalgically recalls his childhood years in this legendary hotel. As I sip my cup of Kericho tea, he describes to me how the hotel was highly esteemed during the 1950s and was ranked in the leagues of Fairmont, Fairview and Hilton hotels.
“When you come straight from the village, this place looks like heaven,” Mutai narrates as he checks his watch to ensure that I don’t get late for my brief morning tour of a tea factory arranged by the hotel.
Described as a ‘hotel with the air of the country club’, Kericho Tea Hotel is an awesome resort specially designed for travellers who desire to breathe the fresh air of the countryside while reminiscing of Kenya’s colonial past. Brooke Bond, a renowned tea company, constructed the hotel in the 1950s.
The ex-military soldiers were sent to Kenya to start tea farms to keep them occupied. The directors later on had a challenge of finding a place to stay each time they visited their tea estates and the hotel was constructed as an exclusive club for expatriate executives .
As a result of this rich heritage, the resort has an appealing public school feel that takes you back to post- war Britain. It comprises 45 well-appointed rooms, several luxury cottages as well as two luxury suites overlooking the world-famous Kericho tea estates.
My tour guides, Winrose Chepkirui, Kagwiria Kaibung’a and David Kiprono arrived at the venue and we embarked on the journey to the tea farm to learn more about tea and how it’s processed.
After this trip, we visited Chagaik Arboretum, an attraction that from my studies was created after the World War Two by Tom Grumbley, a Kericho Tea planter.
There is also Chagaik dam nearby, excellent for picnics; bird watching and you’ll see some of the friendly black or Columbus monkeys.
The weather was fine in the afternoon as I toured Kericho town, viewing Africa’s largest Sikh Gurudwara and the Sacred Heart Cathedral, the second largest Catholic church in Kenya. I still have more places to visit in this town, and will surely be back again to see more places.