Plandai revives Senteeko tea estate into something to be appreciated

Prior to heading to South Africa to document Plandai Biotechnology's operations , the only images we had of the Senteeko tea estate were those that have been published on the company's website

Prior to heading to South Africa in an effort to document Plandai Biotechnology's operations there, the only images we at Stock Market Media Group had of the Senteeko Tea Estate were those that have been published on the company's website.

So, our journey north to the province of Mpumalanga, South Africa, after spending an enlightening day at North West University with Professor Anne Grobler and her team, was filled with anticipation of what exactly Plandai has built there.

We first visited Plandai's offices in the city of Nelspruit to discuss just what we'll see at the tea estate with the company's CEO Roger Duffield. He is a CEO who is extremely proud of what his company has been able to do on about 8000 acres nestled deep in what is an inactive volcano. But, even his colorful explanations didn't prepare us for what we'd encounter just getting our crew to the front gate of Senteeko or what we'd find inside.

Senteeko Tea Estate is truly a 'must see' to appreciate, but just getting to the estate is no easy feat.

After leaving the comfortable and evenly paved highways in Nelspruit, one must be prepared for about 25 miles of twists and turns and extremely rough dirt roads that wind through the mountainous region that surrounds Senteeko. After enduring what can only be described as a bumpy roller coaster ride into Senteeko, we were left wondering how the company was ever able to complete the work just to get to what was once a very overgrown and abandoned tea farm.

We crossed over bridges that had been washed away at one time, dirt roads that weren't always clearly defined and needed work just to make passable, and, when the rains come in the region, they are violent and not friendly to maintaining a clear dirt path on the side of a mountain. Few vehicles make their way up and down the these roads, so it is very common to find locals raising their hands in the direction of passing trucks in hopes of catching a ride into and out of the limited number of companies that are brave enough to call this home.

But, once you make it beyond the front gate at Senteeko, it is clear to see why Roger Duffield glows when he speaks of the tea estate. Senteeko is expansive and it is breathtaking to say the least. The first thing any visitor will notice is that there are rows and rows of tea plants for as far as the eye can see, and in each of the many individual fields, the rows of tea are meticulously cared for and manicured by about 100 local workers who live and work right on the estate.

These workers are up early every morning diligently walking the fields of tea armed with baskets that they fill with the top two tea leaves of each plant that they've harvested. These top two leaves are vital to the process of making Plandai's highly bioavailable green tea extract, Phytofare Catechin Complex because they are filled with phytonutrients.

While standing in the fields of tea, one can't help but notice the sheer beauty that washes over Senteeko. Mountains rise above the estate completely encircling the vast property, a lake complete with a renovated dam quietly sits between tea fields on each side of the company's land, and the beautiful South African farm is even home to a relaxing waterfall and stunning views from high above the surrounding inactive volcano.

As well manicured as much of Senteeko is, we were treated to an area where the company could expand its number of tea fields in the future. In this area, overgrown tea plants stood 30 feet tall and towered over the property's manager who drove us through the difficult terrain to witness just how the entire tea estate looked when Plandai began to revive Senteeko.

Also on the property, are the homes that management and their families live in, housing for hundreds of workers, a small convenient store, and a very impressive production facility that we'll discuss further in our third article highlighting our trip to South Africa. The company's production facility is filled with incredible machinery that we're still in awe ever made it to Senteeko on the back of big tractor trailer type trucks that had to climb those same winding dirt roads that were a match for even a smaller, sturdy truck.

What Plandai has amassed at Senteeko is just short of unbelievable when you realise just how difficult it is to even reach the tea estate, and if that isn't convincing enough, one can gain a greater appreciation for the well maintained fields and rows of tea plants after standing in the areas of the property that still remain as they did when the biotech began its project in 2012. In our third and final article in this series, we will go inside the production facility and share our thoughts on the process to get Phytofare Catechin Complex from the field to packaging.