I’m having to skip my Monday customer journal entry as I’m waiting on a few details so I decided to go ahead and post about my Tuesday customer experience.
Last Friday, I had mentioned that I presented to two groups at the Microsoft Kenya office to showcase the newest Windows-based tablets and phones that are available. We discussed overall strategy, what’s working, what’s not and I answered several questions from my colleagues. After those sessions, we scheduled a customer meeting for Tuesday… it was the most excellent experience. Again, I think I’m learning more than the value that I’m giving.
I arrived at the office around 10a and then Andrew and I geared up, caught a taxi and went to the customer office. It was a short visit at the headquarters (didn’t even take a seat) because our main contact, Paul, offered to take us on a factory tour of one of their facilities – Karirana, The Home of Eden Tea.
Karirana tea has a deep history that began in 1903 when the first seedlings were introduced to Kenya and planted in Limuru (about 5 kilometers from Karirana) – known for its high altitude and rich acidic soils which is a natural habitat for tea to flourish. But, it wasn’t until 1920 when commercial cultivation of tea began in Kenya… and between the years 1925 and 1930 is when two brothers planted the first tea which is now known as Karirana Estates. Source: Karirana About Page.
When we arrived at Karirana Tea Factory, Paul introduced us to Steven their Finance Director for a brief introduction. Steven then made a quick call and arranged for myself and Andrew to do a factory tour.
I was able to take a few pictures while I was outside of the factory; however, I wasn’t able to take pictures inside. I wish I was able to share that experience because the experience is worth sharing. Michael was a very gracious host and tour guide. He was very patient with us and had a sense of pride and honor as he described the entire process to us. I was able to understand the process from picking the tea leaves from the tree (what was good and what was not good). Andrew and I was able to witness the entire processing – from the picking of the tea leaves, to their initial quality testing of the batch, to the drying and processing of the leaf, to the quality assurance through taste testing… all the way up to the selling of the tea (which is another whole process).
There are acres and acres of trees that produce the tea leaves. There are several farms and about 800 pickers that call this place home and live on the farm to make a living for themselves and their family.
Not all of the leaves are picked for consumption. Only the top leaves are picked and make their way through the processing. In the picture to the right, you will find a good pick (which is two leaves and a bud) and you will see a bad pick (it’s the darker tea leaf and has a pretty hard texture… comparatively speaking. The lighter “good pick” leaves are very soft).
The trucks come into the factory often. If I understood Michael correctly, the preference is that the tea leaves make it to the factory in about 2 hours after they are picked (4 max).
There is a lot of education that happens for the pickers to ensure they are only picking the best possible leaves… it is the good tea leaves that make the taste of Karirana one of the best teas in the world to drink. Karirana takes their quality assurance very seriously and randomly selects various bags coming into the factory for testing. The picker will also be there while this testing is being performed just in case there is a dispute on why a tea leaf may be discarded.
As I mentioned earlier, I can’t show you the next few process steps which includes withering, cutting, fermentation, drying, packing and quality control. But the end result of this processing is the great tasting tea that gets produced.
In the end, you might think there is one kind of tea that gets produced. That is so far from the truth. Through this process, it looks like 8 different teas are created… not counting the combinations that can be made that range from pure dark tea to a more bitter tasting tea for those that like that (and anywhere in between).
Near the end of the tour, I actually got to be a quality taste tester… well, I got to taste the tea direct from the processing. I don’t think I’m skilled enough to be able to pass Karirana’s standards as a taste tester.
And to be sure everyone is on the same page in their terminology, there is actually a “Tea Tasting Terminology” key to help you.
After our factory tour at Karirana, I went back to the office where I joined Paul, Steven, Michael, and their IT Manager/Director, John. For the next 20-30 minutes I got to showcase the various Windows-based Tablets and Phones and discussed Microsoft’s vision around a single device for all of your needs and our strategy on Mobile First, Cloud First.
Then, we left the factory and headed for a late lunch – me, Andrew, and our most gracious host Paul.
I am extremely grateful for being a Microsoft employee and getting to meet the best customers around the world (literally around the world as I type this – 8,100 miles from home as I sit in my hotel in Nairobi, Kenya).
We do have the best customers and I truly enjoy getting to know them more and learning about their business. This was a special experience for me… getting to learn about tea from the tree leaf to the processing and, of course, the best part – the consumption.
I THANK YOU Paul, Michael, Steven and Karirana for this most amazing experience. The time I spent with you will always be cherished and I am very grateful for the time you spent with me and sharing your thoughts on business – including the challenges Kenya faces as the country moves more into the mobile workforce.
Thanks for reading.