Malawi Tea Garden Named as a Company to Inspire Africa

Photo courtesy of Satemwa Tea Estate
Annually the London Stock Exchange publishes a laudatory report on “Companies to Inspire Africa.” The 2019 edition cites Satemwa Tea Estate for its tea product and practices. Satemwa, founded in 1923, is the last family-owned and operated tea company in Malawi, Africa’s third largest tea producing nation and the eighth largest tea exporter globally. Owner and General Manager Alexander Kay said, “We are very proud of this recognition. It strengthens us in the belief we have to continue to strive towards more value addition in Malawi and more and better-quality products from Africa…” Satemwa was nominated by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) which praised management for driving innovation in the tea sector through:
  • Diversification towards bespoke single estate white, green, oolong, black and dark orthodox whole leaf specialty teas for the high-value, low volume market;
  • Value addition at origin through branded retail products for the local and export market;
  • Inclusive business partnerships with small holder farmers to set up new value chains for high quality herbs & flowers.
Satemwa is Fair Trade certified, UTZ and Rainforest Alliance certified, and EU MRL compliant for its black cut, tea, curl (CTC) teas that are used in making popular blends sold by international tea brands. It is situated at 3,500-4,000 feet (1,000-1,200 meters) above sea level in the Thyolo Mountains in Malawi’s Shire Highlands.
Photo courtesy of Satemwa
Kay, 45, a third-generation tea grower, said the 2018 annual Malawi crop is estimated at more than 50,000 metric tons, “the biggest for more than five years and welcome after sustained droughts.” He reports “prices were firm for most of the year although softened considerably in the last quarter following Mombasa [where the regional auction saw declines]. “ “In September and October Satemwa produced a lovely Southern Hemisphere First Flush orthodox tea. For a lot of overseas customers this was just in time for the end of the year season,” writes Kay. “Good rains continued into 2019, although an El Nino is expected to start affecting southern Africa from February,” said Kay. “Demand is extremely poor going into the new year with the large volumes being produced in East Africa,” he writes. Satemwa is a major supporter of Malawi 2020, a program to ‘revitalize the Malawi tea industry.’ “The main aim of is to improve wages for workers and green leaf prices for smallholders,” explains Kay. The initiative has dominated industry activities again in 2018, he said, adding, “Much work has been achieved but it remains to be seen what support the market will give to supporting these initiatives during a period of low prices.”
Photo courtesy of Satemwa
About 90 percent of the tea that Satemwa produces is black CTC but during the past 10 years the company revived whole leaf production and began exporting globally. The tea is featured at the Fat Duck in the UK, the Noma restaurant in Denmark and sold by high-end tea merchants in New York, Paris, and Tokyo. The company encourages surrounding smallholders to plant herbs and flowers to diversify their income and grows specialty micro-lot coffee on more than 125 acres (52 hectares). The garden has 2,250 acres (900 ha) under tea and 1,000 acres of sustainably managed forest used to fuel tea drying equipment. To be included on the “Inspire” list, companies must be privately held and show an excellent rate of growth and potential to power African development. Funding is in partnership with CDC Group, PWC, and Asoko Insight, along with Instinctif Partners and Stephenson Harwood. Sources: Satemwa Tea Estate, Inspire Africa Learn more: