Most Americans won’t think of Malawi as a tea growing country, however, this former British colony is home to tea estates that are still producing high quality loose leaf tea. So here is some background on this country and their tea industry.
Profile of Malawi
The country of Malawi is located in Africa, south of the equator near Madagascar and is about on the same latitude as Brazil and the northern part of Australia. Given that it isn’t too far south of the equator it should come as no surprise that agriculture is a large part of the economy of Malawi. According to the CIA World Fact Book, this country which is about the size of Pennsylvania, exports tobacco, tea, raw sugar, beans, soybean products, clothing and apparel in decreasing order. Indeed tobacco is the largest by far making up more than 50% of exports from the country.
As countries go, Malawi is relatively young. It was created as a British protectorate in 1891 and only became an independent nation in 1964. The majority of Malawi’s citizens are descendants of the Maravi, who settled into the region during the 1400s. While it is a democracy now, the people of the country experienced many strict laws under the one-time “President for Life” Hastings Banda until his reign ended in 1993.
Today Malawi continues to experience some challenges as it grows and develops including a decreasing demand for tobacco world wide, extreme weather events caused by climate change, and high rates of HIV/AIDS. Over the past 3-4 years, Malawi has incurred large damages from tropical storms and other severe weather that has wiped out infrastructure and large amounts of farm land. Being one of the poorest nations, the World Bank, IMF, United States and Belgium have been assisting in funding the rebuilding and repairs of the country.
Malawi Tea from Satemwa Estate
Located in the southern tip of Malawi, Satemwa Estate has been producing tea and coffee since 1923, long before Malawi became an independent country. It produces a wide variety of tea products including specialty orthodox tea. The tea estate is located in the southern highlands of the country well south of Lake Malawi and a mere 35 minutes from the countries highest peak, Mt. Mulanje. The Satemwa Estate actually has tea fields spread around the city of Thyolo extending up to Bvumbwe including a field at higher elevations along the slopes of the Michiru Mountain Conservation Area.
The Satemwa Estate tea plantation employs a large number of people in the region. While Malawi struggles in many areas, the plantation features numerous programs to support the well being of its staff. Programs include a health clinic which provides medical care to all employees and their families along with students from the Satemwa Primary School. Its health efforts even include work with the United Nations International Labour Office (UN ILO) to increase awareness and protection around HIV/AIDS. It is supporting national efforts for community policing and even has sporting activities for its employees. Finally, the estate maintains a primary school to combat education challenges in the country, providing schooling for about 900 students.
Satemwa Estate is also committed to reducing its impact on climate change, protecting the environment, and sustainable farming demonstrated through training programs for workers and community members. It is Fair Trade Certified as well as holding certification by both UTZ and the Rainforest Alliance.
Dominion Tea’s Selection of Specialty Tea from Satemwa Estate
Dominion Tea offers three teas from Satemwa Estate:
- Thyolo Moto Satemwa – This handmade black tea from Satemwa Estate in southern Malawi is dried over guava wood. The beautiful large leaf unfurls when steeped to release a bright orange liquor with a sweet woody, floral and nutmeg flavor.
- Puerh Leaf Satemwa Estate – Produced in the modern style (cooked vs aged), this leaf puerh produces a mild, earthy, and woody experience. Although China is known for its puerh, this leaf puerh from Malawi shows that it can be done in other parts of the world.
- Zomba Green Tea– This beautiful long leaf green tea is from the Satemwa Estate in Malawi. Hand plucked and twisted, this fragrant green tea has excellent dry sweet grass and vegetal notes. This tea mellows and is fabulous as an iced tea.
CIA World Fact Book, https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/malawi/#introduction
Satemwa Estate, http://www.satemwa.com/
Malawi: Heavy Rains Leave 700 Families Homeless in Thyolo, By Sungeni Nyoni, January 16, 2015, allAfrica.com, http://allafrica.com/stories/201501161479.html
Picking Tea and Condoms in Malawi, United Nations International Labour Office, http://data.unaids.org/pub/ExternalDocument/2009/20090402_ilomalawi_en.pdf
Thyolo-Thava MP Reaches Out to More Flood Victims, February 18, 2015, The Malawi Voice, http://malawivoice.com/2015/02/18/thyolo-thava-mp-reaches-out-to-more-flood-victims/