Organic, Eco friendly, Socially Responsible & Transparent tea producer of the 21st century!
Hello Alain, please give the readers some background about you and Cyato Tea.
Cyato Tea is a privately owned Rwandan company established in 2015 with 1,200 hectares of purely organic tea plantations certified by USDA Organic, EU Organic, JAS organic, and Rainforest Alliance. We are currently operating in 5 different zones of tea production and are one of the only exclusively organic tea producers in all of East Africa. In 2020 we have just completed our new factory with the capacity of 3 processing lines. Each line can process the tea of 1,000 hectares. We are also working with smaller local farmers who supply their tea to us.
We sell our tea in bulk at the Mombasa tea auction, and we are currently making a transition to start packing the tea on our own and to explore the opportunities of international markets. We sell both premium tea for the international markets and conventional quality tea for the local communities that cannot afford the premium teas.
Cyato Tea produces and sells tea products. Can you please explain exactly what makes your Tea special?
Our Tea is 100% organically farmed and certified and it is grown at a high altitude with more than 1840m above sea level with a well-distributed climate suitable for tea plantations. This is something that makes our tea unique from the rest of the tea in the market.
Cyato tea Factory & the principles of organic agriculture
Please elaborate on the farming and sourcing practices you employ to get your tea.
There are a few steps that we follow:
- We start by establishing nurseries of high-quality seedlings and preparing the land for planting. As part of the preparation, we use the organic manure from the cows at our local cow farms that we have set up for the production of organic fertilizers.
- The seedlings must be a year and a half old by the time we can plant them and they are planted in a very specific way, with the right amount of spacing to assure the best development of the tea plants.
- During the plucking of our tea, we are keen on following the quality standards required, that is, plucking only the two-top leaves plus the bud for the best quality tea. This is keenly followed by our small-scale farmers considering that we take our time to train them on the best practices.
Cyato Tea farmer plucking tea
How do you process the tea once you collect it from the fields and farmers?
There are 7 steps that we follow after collecting tea from the plantations and farmers.
The first step is reception. At this stage, we receive the tea leaves in bales and do some initial analysis. We check on quality standards and acceptability levels which should be at least 75%. The tea with levels below 75 % is rejected hence does not continue to the factory. We do the first weighing at this point.
After that, there is withering and feeding. Withering is done to reduce the moisture content in the tea leaves from 100% to at least 70 %. This process takes a period between 12 and 20 hrs. We feed the tea into the rotor vane that channels the tea to cutting.
We use CTC machines to cut the tea into small leaves. This step allows the enzymes in the tea leaves to start breaking down.
Fermentation & oxidation that takes about one and a half-hour. The enzymes are broken down further and it results in the development of the different flavors or aromas of the tea. Here we also start the separation of the different quality grades of the tea.
Tea on the processing line
The drying phase is further developing the flavors and the aromas while reducing the moisture content to about 3–4%
Sorting & grading is where the different grades are separated according to size and density with help of meshes of the different sizes. Here we get the 5 different grades: BP1, PF1, PD, dust1, and F1. We don’t produce any tea of lower quality.
Storage and packaging are the next steps. We have both packaging facilities for loose and bagged tea where tea of different qualities and grades get packaged accordingly for the market.
Your company has a positive impact on the farming communities you work with. Can you please explain the impacts and how you achieve them?
We are currently Providing employment to about 3,000 members of neighboring communities, depending on the season from which 75% are women and 91% belong to the youth category, to whom we pay wages that allow for improved better lives. Since we started in 2015, the living standard of these communities has drastically improved!
We are involved in building houses for the people in most vulnerable people from the low-income community and we pay the mutual medical to ensure that they have good health. We also have a new renewable energy project that is going to produce enough electricity for our operation plus 100 kWh of energy that we will provide to the local community.
Clean water was not easily accessible to the local people before we started to uncover many great sources of water for our plantation. We have now made sure that the local people have access to clean water that we channel from sources to our plantations and factory.
Besides a positive social impact on the communities around your business, you are also employing organic farming practices. Please explain some of your positive environmental impacts.
Organic farming definitely contributes to our positive environmental impacts. We are not using any harmful chemicals or other types of harmful products along our entire production chain. We use cow manure for fertilizers and the produced milk goes to the community.
Cow farm and farmer making sure Cyato Tea has access to organic fertilizer
At the moment we have an ongoing solar and hydro energy project that will be producing 300 kWh of electricity. This will make sure we have all the electricity needs of our operations covered. The extra sustainable electricity will be distributed to the local community.
As part of our effort for a clean water supply, we have also built a dam that is able to collect and purify water that is used by the factory and distributed to the local community.
You are implementing phy2app to improve the transparency you offer to the market. What are you hoping to achieve by becoming more transparent about your products, practices, and impacts?
There are three key aspects in which we see that phy2app and transparency will help us as a company develop.
First of all, it will improve our access to the market and clients. The market appreciates transparency and wants to see more than just the basic details about the product. They want to see also how the product and our operations are benefiting the community and the environment.
Second of all, it will help us be accountable for what we do and get recognized as an eco-friendly company that is putting in lots of efforts to create sustainable and environmentally friendly tea production that is also very fair towards the community.
Finally, it will help us break down the barriers we currently have in terms of exposure.
Alain Thank You! We are looking forward to a fruitful collaboration and to the great things that are to come for your company!
Big thanks to Alain Twagirumukiza from Cyato Tea for the great interview and Denyse Uwera for the amazing photos of the Cyato Tea plantations, factory, and its employees.