Tree-free fuel

Did you know that in many countries trees are an important part of the tea making process? The energy needed to dry the leaves that we enjoy in every cup often comes from wood fuel, and one of our challenges has been to try and help this wood to be sourced sustainably so that it does not damage indigenous forests in tea growing countries.

As well as supporting projects that help to address wood fuel needs for communities and tea farms (you can find out more here), we’ve also been helping to pioneer new ways to generate energy for the process. On a recent trip to one of our top Kenyan suppliers, Makomboki tea factory, John the factory manager was keen to tell us about the success of an initiative, part-funded by our Supplier Grant Scheme, to install the biomass dryer for their new briquette machine which uses waste biomass to generate energy for tea processing.

Briquette machines are clever compacting machines which are fed with all sorts of organic products which would otherwise go to waste (such as cashew shells, saw dust and rice husks) and produce small bricks of fuel at the other end. Before the waste products can go through the machine, the moisture content needs to be reduced, which is where the dryer comes in. Makomboki have had great success with their new machines and the briquettes they’re generating are currently fulfilling a quarter of the factories fuel needs. The ambition is to purchase a machine that can produce four times as many briquettes, which will mean that the factory only uses biomass and does not need to fell a single tree to process its tea. Makomboki are one of the first Kenyan tea factories to use this technology and are keen to share their story and see if farmers may also be able to benefit from these briquettes in the future for their stoves.

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