Posted in Kafevend Blog
Like many island nations, Mauritius has been under the influence of a succession of larger nations. Stuck so far out in the Indian ocean it remained unpeopled until colonisation by the Dutch in the seventeenth century. Until then it had been the sole home of the dodo, which became extinct within a few decades. Next came the French in 1713 and then after an initial defeat the British took it over a century later and it remained under British rule until 1968, finally shaking off links to the commonwealth in 1992 when it became a republic.
While the Dutch introduced sugar cane production, it was during the period of French colonisation that tea was first cultivated. Both industries continue to this day, but with sugar cane taking up around 90% of land used for cultivation and providing 25% of the country's export earnings, much of the tea that is grown is for local consumption only. Nevertheless, some is exported, perhaps the most well known being Bois Cheri vanilla-flavoured tea. The Bois Cheri tea estate, in the south of the island, contains some of the oldest tea plantations. The black tea grown there is mixed with imported Ceylon tea and vanilla to produce the popular vanilla flavour, which can be easily located and purchased via the internet. The company offers other flavours too, ranging from coconut and lemon to herbal teas such as Ayapana, in addition to 'plain' black tea.
Although the French got the ball rolling as far as tea cultivation is concerned, the Mauritians' love of tea and its enduring importance in everyday life there is generally attributed to the British colonial influence. Black tea, which is the most popular, is usually taken with milk. Sounds familiar!