May 11, 2013

You know, superlatives

A little while ago I was walking home from work when I came across a colobus monkey sitting on the sidewalk a few blocks from my apartment.  And the first thought to cross my mind was not: Wow, a monkey!, as you might expect, but rather: Wow, what nice sidewalks!  

You see, well-paved, pothole-free sidewalks that don't have cars driving on them are more rare than monkeys.  Especially around my house, where the roads had almost necessitated 4-wheel-drive when I first moved here in 2011.  I never really knew how exciting fresh asphalt could be.  

Sure, I'd probably point out a monkey on the sidewalk to a friend, but no tears would be shed if it ran away before she got to see it.  Kind of like a brightly plumaged blue-jay in the back yard.  You might say, hey, come look at this nice bird, but there wouldn't be any urgency to the suggestion.  

But it's still not every day that you see a senior scaling the columns of her house to hand-feed them bananas.  That's still special.   

And that's what we saw when we drove out to Limuru to spend an afternoon at the Kiambethu Tea Farm.  Tea, like flowers, is one of Kenya's biggest exports.  Whenever my boss visits Kenya, he's conscripted to return home to Vietnam with bundles of tea for his family and Kenyan friends.  Wikipedia even says that Kenya is "the leading producer of the best black tea in the word," and that "Kenyan tea [is] the most sought after beverage in the world."  So, you know, superlatives.  And internet.  

Kiambethu apparently used to be one of the largest tea farms in Kenya, but has been pared down and sold away through the course of generations.  It's still operational, but only in small quantities.  They generate additional revenue by hosting tours and luncheons on their grounds.  

Kiambethu house

Tree tomatoes growing in the gardens

The afternoon begins with tea and biscuits (naturally), served with fine silver.  Then everyone sits around a warm living room, passing around fresh tea leaves and examining different sizes and textures of dried tea and and tea dust.  

Good tea, mediocre biscuits

Six shades of tea dust

After that, everyone goes outside to look at the monkeys for a while.  Then they look at the lady (granddaughter of the original farm owner) breaking bread (bananas) with said monkeys.  


Then there's some walking around the tea farm, lookin at geese, and exploring a swath of indigenous forest before returning back to the house for a home-cooked lunch in the garden.   

Tea grows in Kenya

Twisty trees

Garden lunch

So what's the final verdict?  If you're interested in tea and looking for an easy day-trip outside of Nairobi, Kiambethu Tea Farm is a solid option.  However, not recommended quite as highly as an afternoon at Brown's Cheese Farm, also in Limuru.  While tea and cheese are both delicious, the house and grounds at Brown's are a bit more lovely, and they're a bit less stingy with their wine.  

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