Inside the Tea Industry with Sharyn Johnston: The First-Ever African Tea Expo

inside the tea industry sharyn johnston
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I recently had the honor of being invited to attend the world’s first African Tea Expo & Specialty Tea Conference, and what an exciting event!

The conference was organized by The Purple and Specialty Tea Association of Kenya in collaboration with the Kenyan Tea Board with small farmers attending from countries like Uganda, Mozambique, Tanzania, Malawi, and Zimbabwe.

The Chairman and CEO of Tumoi Teas Boaz Katah was instrumental in making this event happen which was an arduous task given the location and bringing together of so many small farmers and international speakers in one location.

Kenya is the largest producer of black teas in Africa and is a significant economic contributor, providing livelihoods for millions of people and playing a crucial role in the country’s economy.

The conference aimed to showcase the diversity of African teas but also the high quality of orthodox African teas, which are renowned for being pesticide free and full of flavor.

One of the aims of the conference was also to focus on Kenyan purple tea and Kenyan specialty teas. Purple tea is a unique tea developed in Kenya.

Purple tea has a bright, purplish leaf unlike the color of the classic tea leaf, and it is full of antioxidants and anthocyanins. The flavor is somewhat similar in profile to a good Darjeeling but is slightly sweeter; the mauve hue of the liquor is unique.

We traveled to the beautiful Nandi Hills, one of the premier tea growing areas of Kenya. The elevation is over 2000 meters, and the air is crisp and clean. The mountains are a vivid green and are a picture of beauty against the blue sky. As far as the eye can see is tea—and quality tea. Miles of soft, healthy green tea leaves and beautiful mountains—it is one awesome location.

While in Kenya, we also had the opportunity to experience the wildlife and the birds and to take a safari. It was nature and tea at their best.

I was invited to speak at the conference, and my selected topic was “Teas of the World.” In this session, I shared a range of over 30 of the world’s top teas across many different categories and from other different tea-producing countries.

This showcase of specialty teas I took with me were unique for the small growers, and they were excited by the different shapes and types of leaves. Their enjoyment in seeing these new varieties was contagious.

african tea conference
Sharyn spoke about Teas of the World at the African Tea Expo & Specialty Tea Conference.

The second day of the conference was spent judging the teas from the different African growing areas and tea producing countries. We evaluated them on a one-on-one basis by cupping, but we also met with each of the individual farmers to give feedback on their teas. This gave the small growers the opportunity to discuss with the judges things that could be done to help improve the quality and flavor of the teas.

African specialty teas cover all types of tea, and we experienced some of the most delicious and spectacular specialty teas I have tried globally. I am so happy to learn that this will become an annual event with the second African Tea Expo being held May 20-23, 2025.

The passion from the farmers, the warmth of the Kenyan people, the teas, the location, and the opportunity to share knowledge with each other was one of the most special times in my tea life.

small african tea growers
The second day of the conference was spent judging the teas from the different African growing areas and tea producing countries.


Plan to Attend or Participate in World Tea Expo, March 24-26, 2025

To learn about other key developments, trends, issues, hot topics and products within the global tea community, plan to attend World Tea Expo, March 18-20, 2024 in Las Vegas, co-located with Bar & Restaurant Expo. Visit

To book your sponsorship or exhibit space at the World Tea Conference + Expo, or to inquire about advertising and sponsorship opportunities at World Tea News, contact:

Ellainy Karaboitis-Christopoulos, Business Development Manager, Questex

Phone: +1-212-895-8493; Email: [email protected]

Also, be sure to stay connected with World Tea Expo on social media for details and insights about the event. Follow us on XFacebookInstagram and LinkedIn.