What is Rwanda Rukeri Tea?

Picture of a worker at a tea plantation in Rwanda
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Tea is a fragrant beverage which is produced from combining hot water with pieces of the Camellia sinensis plant. Originating in China centuries ago, tea production has spread all over the globe, including different parts of Asia, South America, and Africa.

Tea production was first introduced in South Africa during the 19th century. Since then, it has spread to different countries, each producing unique and distinguishable teas. Rwanda, for example, has become quite famous for its diverse black tea, orthodox tea, white tea, and green tea production. One specific type that it is famous for is Rukeri tea.


Although it is uncertain when Rukeri tea first stepped onto the scene, it can be concluded that this tea variety is fairly new. After all, tea wasn’t first produced in Rwanda until 1952. Regardless of when it was first produced, Rukeri has quickly become a popular choice for black tea enthusiasts.

Ideal Conditions

Grown in the mountains at an elevation of 5,500 to 6,600 feet, the Rukeri tea leaves thrive in a sunny and humid environment. What makes this type of black tea different from others is the soil in which it is grown: the tea plant grows in soil that is mineral-rich from volcanic ash.

Processing Black Tea Leaves

After the tea leaves are hand-picked, they are rolled. This process of rolling the tea leaves exposes all parts of the tea leaf to air, allowing for oxidation to occur. Unlike other types of tea, the leaves are allowed to fully oxidize, leading to the rich and robust flavor typical of black tea.

Leafy Appearance & Aroma

When fully processed, Rukeri tea leaves appear dark gray in color. Because of the methods used after harvest, the leaves are cylindrical, medium in length, and slender. Before brewing, the dry Rukeri leaves are said to smell of lemongrass, apples, and malt.

Traditional Brew

This rare black tea, when it can be purchased, commonly comes in loose-leaf form. For a traditional brewing experience, it is recommended to have the following items:

  • Gaiwan (a three-piece brewing vessel consisting of a lid, bowl, and saucer)
  • Loose-leaf Rukeri tea
  • Pitcher
  • Small tea cups
  • Water (205°F.)
  • Pot or kettle (to boil the water)

Once you have all of your items ready to go, there are just a few steps between you and a fresh cup of Rukeri tea.

  1. Using a pot or kettle, bring some water to a boil.
  2. Pre-heat your cups that will be used to drink out of, the gaiwan, and pitcher by filling them with warm water. Once they have been sufficiently warmed, empty out both vessels.
  3. In the pre-heated gaiwan, add the loose tea leaves until the vessel is roughly 1/3 full.
  4. Allow the boiled water to cool slightly (to 205°F.), then pour the hot water over the tea leaves in the gaiwan.
  5. Place the lid on top of the gaiwan and allow the leaves to steep for 45 seconds to 1 minute. Before drinking the tea, pour it all into the pitcher. (Leave the tea leaves in the gaiwan as they can be used for two or even three more brews.)
  6. Now that the fresh brewed tea is in the pre-heated pitcher, it is time to enjoy!

Western Brew

For those who do not own some of the equipment necessary for a strong traditional brew, or if you just prefer a slightly milder black tea, there are ways to achieve a fresh cup of Rukeri tea with common kitchen items. All you will need is a pot or kettle to heat up the water, a teapot to steep the tea, a cup to drink out of, and a strainer to collect the used tea leaves.

  1. Boil 16 oz of water (preferably spring), then let it cool until it reaches 205°F.
  2. Once the water has reached the correct temperature, pour it into the teapot.
  3. Measure out 5 g of tea leaves and put them into the tea pot with the hot water.
  4. For a scrumptious brew, the tea leaves should steep for three to four minutes.
  5. Once the time is up, strain the leaves out with a strainer and pour the tea into your cup. Then, it is time to enjoy your fresh brew!

Appearance, Smell, & Taste

A fresh cup of Rukeri tea appears dark brown with a slight reddish tinge. It also gives off a slightly sweet and toasty aroma, described by some as smelling similar to tobacco and sweet peppers. As for taste, it has been described as being a strong and robust beverage with a malty, woody, and slightly fruity flavor.

Nutrition & Caffeine

Like other types of black tea, Rukeri tea has a low nutritional value. In one serving, 5 g of tea leaves, there are zero calories, fats, carbs, and proteins. Caffeine, on the other hand, is a different story.

Although it is unclear how much caffeine is in this particular type of tea, it can be concluded that it would be somewhere in the range of other black teas. Depending on how the tea was brewed, for instance, the caffeine content will vary. Typically speaking, black tea has anywhere from 50-90 mg of caffeine per serving. With that being said, Rukeri tea may not be the best choice for someone with caffeine sensitivities.

Rwanda Rukeri Tea

Although tea production in Africa is relatively new when compared to other countries, the art has been perfected. Tea produced in Rwanda is recognized as top quality and has become popular in the Middle East and the United Kingdom.

Rukeri tea is a rare, full-bodied black tea that has often been described as delightful, strong, and delicious. Although it can be hard to come by, this Rwandan-produced tea is both popular and sought-after. Known for its robust flavor, mild and alluring aroma, and unique taste, Rukeri tea is definitely something every black tea enthusiast should experience.