Sorwathe Ltd is a tea-growing and tea-processing company in Rwanda and was established in 1975. The tea factory is located in Kinihira, a small town 70 km north of Kigali. Sorwathé was the first private tea factory in Rwanda. The major shareholder of Sorwathé is Tea Importers Inc, an American company that has been involved in Rwanda’s tea sector since the early 1960s. At the time, its founder – Mr Joe Wertheim – was advising OCIR- Thé on the marketing of Rwandan tea.
In 1972, the Ministry of Commerce of Rwanda invited Tea Importers to establish a factory in the Cyohoha/ Rukeri area (around Kinihira). This was an area where donor agencies – FED (the French development fund) and USAID – had invested in draining swampland and planting tea. The closest tea factory to the planted tea area was located 80 km away. This made transportation very costly. Tea Importers Inc agreed and in 1975 Sorwathé was created as a JV between the government of Rwanda and Tea Importers Inc. As part of this agreement, Sorwathé was given a lease of 300 hectares of land for planting and building a tea factory, the construction of which was completed in 1978 along with supporting infrastructure. Today Sorwathé produces about 3,200 tons of made tea per year (about 14% of Rwanda’s annual production). It employs over 2,500 workers, of which around 500 are full time. In 2009 Sorwathé granted shares to the tea cooperative, Assopthe, the shares of which it now owns 13.33%. Its turn- over in 2011 was over US$8m. The company is a prime mover in Rwanda’s tea production sector in terms of variety as well as quality, machinery and certifications.