Malawi was the first country in Africa to grow tea on a commercial scale. Tea was first planted in Malawi in 1878, but it wasn’t until 1891 that it became of any viable significance. The Satemwa Estate was founded in 1923 by a Scottish rubber planter by the name of Maclean Kay. The first tea seeds planted by Kay in 1926 were heirloom China varietals. In 1928 he introduced the first Camellia sinensis var. assamica seed from India. This seed formed the basis of expansion until the 1960’s. Satemwa Estate is the last remaining of the original founding tea estates that led to the creation of a successful tea industry in Malawi. The knowledge of the terroir and tea processing techniques that have been passed down the generations of both the Kay family and employees have led to distinctive and celebrated teas being created at Satemwa the like of which cannot be matched by any other estate in the region.
Satemwa teas are made up of the two primary varieties: Camellia sinensis var. china and Camellia sinensis var. assamica as well as numerous Superior cultivars that have been bred by the Tea Research Foundation of Central Africa in Mulanje, Malawi. These Superior Cultivars are bred for drought tolerance, cup characteristics and health benefits. They have been shown to have higher levels of theanine, antioxidants and catechins than teas from other origins. Also, the growing conditions in Malawi are known to favor higher production of the gallated catechins.
The Satemwa Estate is fair trade certified. It is also certified by the Ethical Tea Partnership and the Rainforest Alliance. As part of Satemwa's social responsibility program, they provide a number of welfare services, which are available to both staff and their immediate dependants. The Satemwa Clinic provides professional medical services to all employees, and their immediate families and to all students at the Satemwa Primary School. There is a 3 bed antenatal facility and an under 5 clinic on Mondays that is accessible to all the communities on and around Satemwa. A 24hour ambulance service funded by the company takes any referrals to hospitals within the district of Thyolo. The Satemwa Primary School seats +/- 900 pupils. Education is provided in partnership with government who provide the teachers, learning materials and curriculum, whilst Satemwa provides land, buildings and other structural needs such as teachers housing. This year, Satemwa sent 19 pupils to various secondary schools. Satemwa also supports divisional sporting activities which give workers a breather after a week's hard work in the fields. Divisions play competitive soccer with other divisions and estates.
Satemwa is happy to be in close interaction with nature and work closely with their staff in a CSR (Corporate and Social Responsibility) program to protect the nearby forest and wildlife. Satemwa also works with sustainable wood and stoves that conserve firewood to dry the tea and are developing different solar and energy saving initiatives for the processing of their teas.