The Kericho plantation in Kenya – where workers previously faced abuse and exploitation – is among those being offloaded by CVC

CVC Capital Partners, the private equity owner of Lipton Teas & Infusions, is to sell a clutch of tea estates across east Africa to Sri Lankan conglomerate Browns Investments.

The sale, announced on Tuesday 7 May, includes plantations in Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania. The plantations were acquired as part of CVC’s £3.8bn capture of Unilever’s tea business in 2022.

The Kericho plantation in Kenya – where the (predominantly female) workforce faced abuse and exploitation under Unilever’s stewardship – is among those being offloaded by CVC.

Lipton said Browns – which already owns tea plantations in Kenya, having purchased 5,200 hectares of tea fields from Scotland’s Finlays in November last year – had agreed the 87 million kg of tea it will now sell annually would be grown to a new set of standards “covering quality, social and environmental protections”.

Working together, the companies would “raise tea quality globally and accelerate the application of responsible farming methods across the industry to drive sustainable growth”, it added.

Lipton pledged to reinvest the funds from the transaction into further transforming the region “to benefit the overall tea industry”.

The PG Tips and Pukka Herbs owner announced in February it was to co-fund the world’s first higher education institution dedicated to tea in Kenya.

The academy is to provide vocational training as well as bachelors, masters, and PhD level courses on tea cultivation, harvesting, and processing.

As part of the terms of the deal with Browns, a total of 15% of the shares in Lipton’s Kenyan operating company are to be offered to local communities in Kericho and Bomet. A similar structure was put in place when Browns bought Finlays’ estates business in Kenya last year.

The two companies would also create a joint community welfare trust with an initial 1bn Kenyan shilling (£6.1m) investment, Lipton added.

“Browns is the perfect partner, with the credibility, capabilities and scale to work with us to raise standards in the whole tea industry,” said Lipton CEO Nathalie Roos. “The team’s commitment to sustainability and community development aligns with our own. Together, we are setting a new precedent for transforming the global tea market.”