The Kenyan tea industry has a long history of innovation. From the first test plantings by British farmers in 1903 to the establishment of the Kenya Tea Development Authority in the 1960s, to the wide embrace of CTC (cut tear and curl) manufacturing, tea in Kenya has followed a wide arc of constant change. One of the more recent innovations has been the introduction of Natural Dryer Mouth, a hybrid of sorts between the leafy product normally associated with orthodox teas (traditional, non-CTC tea) and the typical pellet shaped, CTC teas.

In Kenya, the CTC method is favored because it is perfectly suited to the sturdy leaf produced by the country's rich soil and even rainfall. Processing involves the plucked leaf being run through a series of machines after primary withering (light drying). First the leaf is sent through a Rotovane, a machine that cuts into very coarse pieces. Next, a series of machines tear the leaf into smaller pieces, finally curling it into the telltale pellet shape. From there the tea is left to ferment and turn black, and ultimately dried in a biodynamic tea dryer. The teas produced are typically very full bodied with a deep rich color and profound flavor.

Dryer Mouth production effectively skips part of the CTC process. A portion of tea is set aside after the Rotovane machine and mixed with tea that has gone through some, but not all of the CTC machines - importantly sidestepping the final machine that rolls the leaf into tiny pellets. The resulting mix is rough and leafy, looking very different from a typical CTC tea. Inspect a handful and you'll see broad chunks of leaf, small chop, wiry stems and even some stalk. The cup, like most Kenyans is still incredibly rich with light touches of malt but with an exceptionally fresh, very natural and almost unfinished edge, albeit a very soft one leading to a smooth finish. Natural Dryer Mouth, a new feather in Kenya's tea cap! A stunning tea - try it with a dash of milk to help open the unique profile.

Note: Lelsa Plantation is a sub-section of Changoi estate and is certified by Fair Trade and the Ethical Tea Partnership, ETP.