Introduction

office-newThe Tea Research Institute (TRI), was established in 1980 to replace the former Tea Research Institute of East Africa (TRIEA) with the objects "to promote research and investigate problems related to tea and such other crops and systems of husbandry as are associated with tea throughout Kenya including the productivity (yield), quality and suitability of land in relation to tea planting; and matters ancillary thereto".

Research focuses therefore on development of improved clones, appropriate technologies for improvement of yield (quantity of green tea leaf/made tea per hectare) and quality of tea products.

This is done through development of appropriate practices for tea production including breeding, clonal selection, correct plant nutrition, optimal crop husbandry methods, crop physiological studies, control of major pests and diseases, tea manufacture, marketing and utilization of finished products.

Tea ResearchAnnual tea production in Kenya has consistently increased from 1963 to date. It is expected that production will exceed 400,000 metric tons made tea (mt) by the year 2015. Up to 60% of the total Kenyan tea crop is produced by the smallholder sub-sector. This subsector has been expanding rapidly as a consequence of expansion of the hectarage under tea, and adoption of improved clones that have a high productivity per unit area. Overall, Kenya has some of the highest average yields per unit area in the world.

The success of the Kenyan tea industry has among other factors, been ascribed to deployment and leveraging of appropriate research and development (R&D) outputs in the production value chain. The R&D outputs have largely been developed by the Tea Research Institute (TRI).   For example, Tea Research Institute has developed and disseminated improved tea clones that have increased tea yields in Kenya from an average of 1,500 kg to 3,300 kg of made tea per hectare per year (mt/ha/yr) on the large estates, and from an average of 600 kg to 2,300 kg mt/ha/yr under the smallholder production system. Significant yield increases and improved tea quality have been achieved through the development of improved tea clones and production technologies.  

Over time, the Foundation has developed over 914 improved clones, out of which 49 clones have been selected for consistent superiority in yield and quality and released for commercial exploitation by both smallholder and large estate growers.  Thirteen of these clones are capable of yielding between 5,000 kg and 8,000 kg of made tea per hectare per year.  These yield levels are some of the highest in the world and are in magnitude of three times the average yields of unimproved tea varieties.

Currently the tea industry in Kenya is facing both local and global challenges ranging from prohibitive production costs, minimal value addition to lack of product variations and climate change. Tea Research Institute is aligning its research to tackle these emerging challenges.

Tea Research Institute has reoriented its research agenda to focus more on tea products diversification and value addition. Tea Research Institute has developed a new tea clone (‘’Purple tea’’) rich in a pigment called anthocyanin widely used for the manufacturing of fast moving consumer goods such as soaps, shampoo and detergents. Research is also assessing the potential health benefits of tea as they have anti-inflammatory and anti-parasite properties and may be used to protect the liver from damage.

Towards addressing issues on climate change and to enable the tea industry to survive the expected negative impacts, Tea Research Institute is developing new technologies to mitigate the effects, including environmental conservation efforts and development of new tea varieties resistant to negative impacts of climate change.

Mandate
The Institute’s mandate is “to promote research and investigate problems related to tea and such other crops and systems of husbandry as are associated with tea throughout Kenya including the productivity, quality and suitability of land in relation to tea planting; and matters ancillary thereto”.

Vision
“A global leader in research on tea”.

Mission
“Generate and disseminate sustainable technologies and knowledge through innovative research for improved productivity, processing, value addition and marketing of the Kenyan tea while conserving the environment”.

The Foundation is responsible to the Ministry of Research Technical Training and Technology (MRTT&T) through its Board of Directors whose mandate is to formulate policies and guidelines for the proper and effective operation of the Foundation.

The Board is composed of membership from the parent ministry, Ministry of Agriculture Livestock Development and Marketing, Tea Board of Kenya, Kenya Tea Growers Association, Kenya Tea Development Corporation and prominent tea growers nominated by parent ministry. The Research Director is the Chief Executive as provided for by the Foundation's Memorandum and Articles of Association (1980) and the State Corporations Act (Cap 446).