In the 1960’s, Mr Joe Werthiem, who is the founder of Sorwathe had heard that tea was being grown in Rwanda. He used to travel around Africa in a small plane for tea business as the roads were poor. On one of his regular visits to Africa he had decided to stop over in Kigali.

Mr Joe Wertheim is also the founder of Tea Importers which is an American Company involved in Tea Business. Tea Importers involvement in Rwanda at that time was only to assist OCIRTHE in marketing their tea. In 1972, the Minister of Commerce requested Tea Importers to establish a factory in the Cyohoha/ Rukeri area as the Tea planted was becoming ready for processing.

The first section of tea planted was a 16 hectare block in the Kiruri swamp in Cyohoha with US aid funding. This block exists even now. This was planted in 1965 and the first plucking was on the 5th of August 1968. This leaf was being taken to Mulindi Factory at that time which is around 80 kms away.

After protracted negotiations, The Government of Rwanda and Tea importers entered into a Joint Venture Agreement on the 25th of March 1975.Tea Importers undertook to build a Factory at Kinihira and was given a lease of 450 hectares of land for the construction of the Factory and plant an Industrial Block. However when it was finally surveyed there was only 300 hectares and of which only 280 was suitable for planting.

Construction of the factory commenced in 1975 and it took around 2 years to complete it. Production commenced in 1978. Mr Mike Boyd Moss and Mr Cally Alles were involved from the inception to plan out, build and install all the machinery. They were also involved in the establishment of the other infrastructure such as bungalows and other buildings. SORWATHE was the 1st Private Tea Factory in Rwanda.

Over the years the production of Sorwathe has increased and currently is around 3 million kgs made tea per annum. This is around 15% of the Rwanda production and continues to be the largest (single factory) producer in the country.

Consistency in quality has been always been the main focus of Sorwathe enabling it to earn a good reputation and find export markets in US,UK,Canada, Ireland, South Africa, Japan and Pakistan.

SORWATHE is currently ISO 9001:2008, ISO 22000:2005 and FAIRTRADE certified and ETHICAL TEA PARTNERSHIP participant. Our green and black tea are also RBS – (Rwanda Bureau of Standards) product certified.

Sorwathe has many first time achievements in Rwanda, some of the main are mentioned. We are the first build a New Orthodox Tea Factory in Rwanda which is automated and could  manufacture both Orthodox and Green Tea. In addition to this we have introduced  technology to the Tea industry in Rwanda such as Fluid Bed Driers, Invertors, 3T Stalk Extractors, Enclosed troughs etc. We are also converting 116 hectares into Organic Tea which is another first in the Tea Industry of Rwanda.

Tea Tourism is another of our projects and we have our Guest House with a panoramic view. We have introduced field and factory tours to those who are interested in learning more about Tea.

SORWATHE has and continues to win prestigious awards. We won the 1st place in the Agriculture Category in Expo award for 2 years (2007 &2008). In 2009 we were placed 3rd in the overall category.The latest of our achievements was being selected as the “Investor of the Year for 2009” at the prestigious Rwanda Development Board awards. This award which many aspire to achieve was based on the profitability, forward and backward linkages with local SME’s, demonstration of Innovation and Technology transfer, Corporate Social Responsible projects, being a role model and reinvestment into business to sustain growth. In addition to this main award we were placed as second runner-up in the “Exporter of the year-2009” category.

In 2009, we granted shares to Assopthe which is the Tea Cooperative which supplies Green leaf to us and thereby making them our share holders . This is the first Tea Cooperative in Rwanda to received shares from Factory. Currently they hold 13.3% of shares of Sorwathe.

Sorwathe currently owns 262 hectares of Tea and 525 hectares of Forest. Assopthe supplies Green Leaf to Sorwathe from 900 hectares of Tea. Sorwathe has created over 3000 employment opportunities for the community around Kinihira and Assopthe the Tea Cooperative which supplies Green Leaf to Sorwathe provides job opportunities to around 5000 more in the villages around.

Sorwathe has also undertaken many Corporate Social Responsibility activities and the main ones are being the Premier donor and Contribution of US$ 60000 for the construction of the National Library of Kigali, Facilitation of Adult Literacy programmes, Introduction of Rocket Stoves and Solar cooking which reduces the consumption of Firewood by 90% and cooking is smokeless.

When we look back at Kinihira now and what it was in 1975, the beneficial impact Sorwathe has made to the population is quite significant and the achievements are unparalleled.

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