These were taken in Malawi about 23 years ago. As usual, the pictures themselves don’t tell too much of a story. They’re typical scenes of tea gardens at the base of the Mount Milanje.
You will note that there are shade trees in an about the property, which gives some relief from the sun during growing season. You may also notice that the bushes are a bit lower than other tea growing areas. During this time, it was thought that a bent over position for the tea pluckers was less stressful and more efficient, so the bushes were kept at a lower height.
The views were magnificent and the estates pretty to see, but the real power of photographs are their ability to open the floodgates of memories. These certainly did!
In 1993, I was President of Royal Estates Tea Company, which was the Tea Buying and Blending division of Thomas J. Lipton. It was important for me to maintain relationships with our key suppliers and Malawi was an important market for us at the time. So I flew to Blantyre to visit our office, Lipton (Malawi) Limited, and some of our supplier tea estates.
The local manager at the Lipton Office had met once before, but curing my time in Malawi, we became good friends, sharing meals at estates, visiting some of the Planters Clubs, driving around the beautiful sites and even changing tires of the three flats we had!!!
The Lipton manager at the time was Jem McDowall, now VP at Universal Commodities (Tea), Ltd and current Chairman of STI’s Associate Board. Just goes to show how in the tea industry, you’re always close to mutual friends!