Kiambethu Tea Farm, Limuru

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Kiambethu Tea Farm, Limuru

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Review of "Kiambethu Tea Farm, Limuru"

published 02/03/2017 | Essexgirl2006
Member since : 07/02/2006
Reviews : 569
Members who trust : 271
About me :
Excellent
Pro Lovely lunch, welcoming, informative talk
Cons Need taxi/transport
exceptional

"An Insight into Colonial Life in Kenya"

The gardens

The gardens

Introduction

When visiting a pal in Nairobi last year , she suggested coming here on our last day for a nice relaxing trip out of the city. This is one of the original tea farms in Kenya and is higher up so a lot cooler in the summer (sadly we were there in winter – so bring a sweater or jacket).

How To Get Here

The tea farm is situated near Limuru, in a modestly mountainous area and is about 2000 feet above Nairobi, hence the coolness. It is located about 30km from where my friend lived in North West Nairobi and should take a little over an hour, however Nairobi traffic can vary so we allowed extra time and got here super early!. You will need private transport to get here (taxi or access to private vehicle) but the roads are not too bad (by Kenyan standards at least!). The lush landscape is lovely after the bustle and noise of Nairobi.
A little bit of History

The farm was bought by a British white settler Arnold B McDonell in 1910. He basically purchased 350 acres from the British government and became one of the first people to grow tea commercially in Kenya. Initially he tried other crops without success until a friend visited from India with tea plant samples which seemed to work in this area. In the beginning the tea leaves were actually processed on the farm, and transported to Nairobi via train where McDonell sold them directly to traders

Five generations have lived on this farm and it is now the home of his grand-daughter Fiona Vernon, a sprightly older lady. The family used to own a lot of land in the valley but much has been sold off over the years and they have a much more modest stake in the area, and farm only two of the 35 acres they own. The leaves are sent to a nearby factory for processing as there are many other farms in the area.
Fiona’s mother Evelyn first did tours in the 1960s, Fiona originally didn’t want to be involved but fell into giving tours after her mother’s death and has carried on.

McDonell also founded a nearby girls’ school for his daughters and others in the area, although originally this was a white girls’ school only. It was a boarding school but was sold on and is now church run, and accepts girls from any background. He also helped build and design the local church.

Prices and Bookings

Booking is a must so they know how long they are catering for and can be done on the phone or online. The cost is Ksh3300 (£25) which isn’t a cheap afternoon but food and drink is all included. Children under 12 are half price. You can book through tour companies but I understand you can get a better deal by booking directly and hiring a driver.
Our day

You arrive at 11am but as we had over-estimated Nairobi traffic we were quite early. Fiona was gracious and very welcoming and invited us to sit down and chatted with us until other guests arrived, We were encouraged to walk freely around the gardens in the meantime. The gardens aren’t particularly large but well maintained and very different for a typical UK garden. As it was the Kenyan winter flowers weren’t really in bloom but it was still a lovely green area.

Normally Fiona would do her talk on the veranda but as it was still quite chilly, we went inside with the other visitors (I am guessing about 25-30 of us) where we could have complimentary tea, coffee or fruit squash with some homemade cookies and Fiona told us about the history of the farm with fellow farm residents Chuma and Amber (the latter is a dachshund but I am not sure about her bigger pal Chuma). The dogs are well behaved and know they have to sit under the coffee table when there are guests. Amber will still try and steal your seat if you stand up though! There is Lego on the veranda for younger visitors who may not be so engaged with stories of early colonial life. The talk was very informal, and not technical and Fiona is happy to take questions.

Towards the end of the talk there was a commotion on the roof. It turned out the local colobus monkeys had come along to hear the talk (possibly). We went out to see them and having missed the tea and biscuits, Fiona’s groundsman, Stephen, gave them some bananas. They reached down from the roof to snatch the bananas from him (and each other) and munched them contentedly whilst showing no interest in those of us who didn’t have any bananas. Some of them even ate the bananas sideways and skin on , which made me wonder if we have been eating bananas wrong all these years….

After Fiona took us the bottom of the garden to see the tea plants, Stephen (assisted by Chuma and part of the way by Amber) then took us for a short walk through the indigenous forest at the back of the property. The only addition to this forest are cypress trees planted by Mr McDonell. Otherwise everything was natural including the termite mounds. Stephen also passed around the leaves of a piper tree which had a gorgeous lemon scent. He then brought us back through the farm’s cottage garden where they grow all their own veg for lunch and have the resident ‘ice cream makers’ (jersey cows).

After this we return to the main house for lunch on the lawn.

Food

Upon our return to the house, the front lawn was set up with individual tables lain for the size of each party booked. Kids are allowed to run around the lawn as much as they like and the kitchen provides a meal for any drivers or nannies that you may have brought with you.

Food was a simple, but tasty buffet and there was plenty of it. Just pop into the house and choose what you want. I had a delicious vegetable soup ( potatoes, leek and parsnips), there was bread and garlic bread also.

There was a beef dish (stroganoff possibly), a chicken dish and a vegetable korma style curry. Sides of rice, lentils, butternut squash gratin, carrots and green beans were available and coming out piping hot, I was impressed they knew how quickly to turn things round, as they didn’t seem to run out of anything, and everything was hot, which is no mean feet when operating a buffet.

Desserts included a mousse, chunky hot apple crumble, homemade vanilla and chocolate ice cream, fruit salad and cheese and biscuits. You can have a bit of everything too (I did!). I am not a big dessert eater but loved the homemade style desserts, they were simple and tasty.

Tea, coffee, wine, beer and soft drinks are also available complimentarily, Fiona has set up a ‘bar’ on the veranda but at any given opportunity will walk around chatting to guests and making sure everything is alright.
Conclusion

I was not really that bothered about coming here initially, I don’t like tea for a start! However I thought this was a lovely way to spend my last day in Nairobi (or rather outside it). It is lovely and green and peaceful up here and the three and a half hour ‘experience’ (talk, tour and lunch) went very quickly. As you are a little way out of town and at a higher altitude a sweater or similar is recommended for cooler days and maybe closed shows/trainers for the forest walk.

Fiona was a lovely hostess and you felt very much like a guest in her home, rather than a paying visitor. The lunch was also superb, homemade yet of a high standard and lovely to know the vegetables and dairy produce came from just a few metres away. That is the true definition of farm to table!

If you have the time (and means) to get here then I do highly recommend you take this opportunity to see the other side of life in Kenya and enjoy a fabulous lunch at the same time.

PICS:
1. The gardens
2. Amber
3. Banana time!
4. Tea Farm

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exceptional

Comments on this review

  • DodoRabbit published 04/04/2017
    Wonderful and quite inspiring- not somewhere I'd considered going before but sounds excellent :)
  • eve6kicksass published 14/03/2017
    Lovely review, E! :)
  • chrisandmark_is_here published 14/03/2017
    Sounds fabulous x
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Product Information : Kiambethu Tea Farm, Limuru

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Listed on Ciao since: 24/08/2016