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Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Tea and Coffee Plantation visits

First, my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan and the challenges they are facing.  Several of my work colleagues live or have family in Japan, and my CSC team member Haruta-san was able to confirm her family and friends were safe. 

Last Friday, our neighborhood postmaster, who has been wonderful, arranged for the team to visit tea and coffee plantations to understand how the farmers can utilize the postal distribution network.  In one of my earlier posts, I questioned why Kenyans preferred tea when coffee farms were far more prevalent.  However, with the price of coffee being driven by daily auctions from the coastal town of Mombasa, Kenya (which I will visit next week), the local citizens are essentially priced out of the bean market and coffee has become a major export.  Blades churning and machines rattling, the speed which dried green tea leaves were cut, darkened while fermenting, blackened while cooked, and finally separated based on 4 small but distinct sizes was fast and efficient.  You could immediately sense the effect that the unique sizes had on taste in the testing room, as slight size discrepancies produced distinctive color and potency in samples.  The coffee plantation process involved much less infrastructure (the beans were not cooked at this site), at faster speeds, quickly bagged, and shipped off to the market (much shorter shelf life).  Unlike the tea plantation, here we were able to see the coffee trees, and how the red beans were picked, opened, and brought in for processing.  Both tours were great, and although we were provided coffee samples at the end of the tour, I was the only one who could not be converted into a coffee drinker.  The remainder of the day consisted of travel to our weekend adventure to Lake Nakuru in search of pink flamingos and the elusive 2 ton white rhino.

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