Malawian innovation: White tea reimagined
Have you ever wondered where our teas come from? One of the tea farms from which we source some exceptional teas is the third-generation family-run Satemwa Tea Estate in Malawi. We met tea maker Alexander Kay for a cup of tea and talked about innovative tea specialties.
For you, we travel the world, searching for the best tea producers and harvest. Year after year, we come across such rare and extraordinary varieties. One place that never fails to surprise us is the Satemwa Tea Estate in Malawi. Innovative tea is handcrafted here: progressive work that we highly appreciate. But what exactly does innovation mean in terms of tea production? It means leaving old methods in tea production behind, trying new processes, and rethinking tea.
“Although Malawi has a rich tea history, we feel free to experiment and innovate at our location. We like to think outside of the box and twist our tea specialties,” Alexander Kay from Satemwa Tea Estate explains.
About 20 years ago, Alexander Kay began to explore new paths and revive the production of specialty teas together with his father. Alexander recalls:
“It all started when we read about white tea in a magazine. We played around with some freshly plucked leaves dried on our desks, asked tea friends to give feedback, and experimented with different cultivars. To learn more about tea making, I soon traveled to Taiwan, Japan, and Sri Lanka.”
At Paper & Tea, you’ll find three unique tea creations that tell exciting stories of inventive experiments, steady refinement of techniques, and the courage to try new ways.
For the white tea CHIKONDI BEADS N°923, withered leaves are carefully hand-rolled on a rough surface into little cocoons. Upon repeated infusions, the tea leaf unfurls like a butterfly’s wings. Only 20 women master this elaborate handcrafting at Satemwa Tea Estate.
“About 15 years ago, one of them came up with the idea to roll the tea leaves into small pearls. Starting from the very first sip, we loved the unique shape and the creamy taste so much. Our hand-rolled tea became increasingly popular, yet we can only produce a limited quantity, but passionately”, Alexander tells us.
For RED HIBISCUS N°820, pure hibiscus blossoms are taken from the surrounding areas nearby Satemwa Tea Estate. The pink-colored infusion is a delight for all herbal tea fans.
“In 2014, Satemwa started an initiative to collaborate with a community of small farmers. Side by side, we agreed on a standard on how to grow, how to harvest, and how to transport flowers and herbs. That’s how we ensure the high quality of regionally grown ingredients. We are very proud that smaller farms and their hand-picked products can prove themselves in the Western market”, Alexander describes.
In 2023, the Satemwa Tea Estate turns 100. Reason enough to join in the celebration and raise our tea cups one more time. And remind ourselves what we share with our tea friends from Satemwa Tea Estate: our deep passion for tea, an understanding of inventive tea specialties, and appreciation for new ways of production. What would we do without them? Tea makers implement new ideas every day, to fill our cups full of warm happiness.
Thank you for the interview, Alexander.