Just over an hour’s drive South West from Chipinge town, you come across awe inspiring views of gentle rolling hills covered with lush green tea. Somehow the tea covered hills seem like waves rolling away, on and on and on. This spectacular view is none other than Jersey Estate.
Interestingly the eastern border of the estate is in fact part of the international boundary with Mozambique.
Jersey started planting tea back in 1945 and has concentrated solely on tea until late 2011 which saw the diversification into coffee and macadamias. The introduction of the coffee and macadamias was a new and inspiring challenge for all at Jersey. Today Jersey has over 600ha of tea (of various varieties, SFS 150, PC 110, PC108 and PC 80 to name a few), 174 ha of coffee – Catimor 129, Costarica and SL28 and 176 ha immature Beaumont macadamia. With the sandy loams, sandy clay loams and clay loam soils providing the perfect foundation for the cultivation of these crops we eagerly await our first harvests.
Depending on the season Jersey can employ up to 1,000 employees providing desperately needed jobs for the local community. Work can be hard to come by in the harsh economic climate currently prevailing in Zimbabwe. Most of the workforce is engaged in the fields with others in workshops, factories, administrative positions etc.
Tanganda’s tea is plucked either by hand held machines or ride on machines and delivered to the factory. Jersey’s factory runs 3 lines, each capable of producing 400kg made tea per hour. With tractors continually arriving with tea baskets brimming with freshly plucked tea the factory runs a 24 hour shift during the peak season.
Producing the final tea product is rather technical. First the green leaf is fluffed, spread evenly and left to wither for a period of 16-20 hours. The withered leaf is then macerated to intensify and allow thorough fermentation. The leaf cells are crushed to extract the juice and when exposed to the atmosphere triggers the fermentation with the help of the enzyme polyphenol oxidase. Tanganda uses GLC as the primary cutting machine which have an average rpm of 2200. The CTC machine (crush, tear, curl) is the secondary machine used as mid cut to compact the leaf particle and further activate fermentation.
The fermentation process is basically an extension of withering in which the leaf is macerated for the cells to be exposed. The polyphenols present go through a biochemical change in the presence of oxygen, with the help of polyphenol oxidase.
The drying process stops the fermentation and evaporates the dhool moisture. Tanganda estates used FBD dries (fluidized bed driers). Next is the sorting and grading which separates the tea particles according to size. Tea then passes through a fibre extractor and is finally graded and packed for shipment.
The above processes are all monitored constantly to maintain the correct temperatures, feed rates, moisture content etc all along the factory line. Each and every stage in the factory must run precisely and efficiently to produce the perfect cup of tea.
Coffee is handled entirely differently and goes through the revamped pulpery. Here the coffee is put through a pulping machine which removes the outside skin. This leaves the coffee bean covered with a white husk. The beans are then placed into fermentation tanks and left to ferment for approximately 18 hrs, possibly a little more. Next the coffee goes for a thorough washing and grading along a cement floored channel and is finally placed in the drying troughs. After roughly a week of drying the coffee is now ready for hulling/dehusking. Hulling machines remove the outer white husk leaving coffee bean known as “green bean”. The green is then passed through other grading machines, grading the beans by size. Once the coffee beans are packed they are ready for export and to be sold to coffee roasters.
Gum, Wattle and Pine plantations form just over 343ha and are required simply to provide fuel to the tea factories. An additional 15ha of indigenous forest exists which is protected and left purely as conservation areas. In these forests numerous indigenous trees are found, like the Quinine Tree (Rauvolfia cafra or Mudzungurwi), Boabab (Adansonia or Muuya), Spiny Monkey Orange (Strychnos coceloides or Mutamba), Cork Tree or Sand Apple (Parinari curatellaefolia or Muchakata), Wild Fig (Ficus chirindensis or Mutsamvu), Shiny Leaf Flat Top (Albizzia gummifera or Munjerenje) etc. Countless bird species are found as well as small mammals, Jackals, Tree Civets, Squirrels, Vervet Monkeys and often Blue Duiker. Hunting of any kind, tree chopping etc is strictly prohibited.
Several rivers can be found in the surrounding district. The Chinyamakashu, Fayixanda, Nyamukunga and Gezavahle rivers all spill into the one main river, the Chinyika River. This river begins in the Chirinda Forest, (Mt Selinda), feeds into Jersey dam, spills on into Smaldeel dam, and then flows on through Jersey Estate and across into neighbouring Mozambique. The Dumbutumu River also flows into the Jersey dam though the dam is the rivers’ final destination.
The Jersey Dam is actually located a few kilometres away from the estate and provides most of the water for irrigation. Water from the dam is conveyed by gravity down a lined canal. This furrow, known as the Top Furrow, is 8km in length. Half of the tea plantations on the estate are gravity irrigated from this furrow. The balance of the estate is irrigated from storage reservoirs with water pumped about the estate and by pumping directly out the Chinyika River at various points.
All fresh water for drinking purposes is supplied from the natural springs found on the estate, providing safe, clean water to all workers.
Like all Tanganda estates Jersey has its own well stocked clinic. The twenty two bed clinic is run by the state registered nurse who attends to all general ailments, women in labour as well as any emergencies. A doctor visits all Tanganda estates routinely to take care of any serious conditions.
Education is available to all pupils of school going age. Whilst the Ministry of Education runs both schools on the estate they are well supported by Jersey. The primary school starts at ECD level (Early Childhood Development) up to Grade 7 and the senior school takes the children right through A Levels. Both schools can accommodate up to 400 pupils each.
For those with small babies a Play Centre is available and though privately run is available to all Jersey workers ensuring the safety and care of children whilst parents are at work. The wellbeing and education of our children is of utmost importance.
Five kiosks, a trading store and an Ecocash facility are available ensuring workers don’t need to go far for their grocery requirements.
Jersey produces some very strong sports teams. The workers engage in soccer, netball, volleyball, darts and tug-o-war. They certainly are a force to be reckoned with at the annual Tanganda Gala. Regularly matches are arranged with other Tanganda Estates and local social clubs throughout the year.
In the evenings there is a cocktail bar and a recreational hall. Each of these has its own television set with DSTV allowing the employees to join with friends and unwind in the evenings and weekends.
Many cultural legends and sacred areas can be found at Jersey. Local legends say Spooky Ridge is home to spirits. Whilst patrolling pump houses security guards have been known to flee in the night claiming sightings of flashing lights and amber sparks falling from the sky.
Then there is the Chinanga Tree, in section 7, which is a historical and cultural site that was once used for cultural and rainmaking ceremonies.
The Muradzikwa Chieftainship has three adjacent grave sites. Each year the Muradzikwa clan request permission to visit these sites and perform their family rituals. All such ceremonies and rituals are encouraged by Jersey keeping traditions alive.
The current Estate Manager, Sherrington Hlatshwayo has been in his current position for 21 years now. Born at Jersey Sherrington has lived his whole life in the area. He began his career in the field some 46 years ago; working his way rapidly up the ladder and now holds the reins for what he knows as home. Sherrington is not just the Estate Manager, he’s a part (perhaps the heart) of the estate.