It was time for our last trip in Malawi – our last getaway in a country with lots of amazing places to explore. 😦 We debated if we wanted to go to Lake Malawi, to other nature reserves, to hike Mount Mulanje, etc. There were too many options!! But then we realized: we’d never been to tea country! Tea is a big product in Malawi and we’d heard awesome things about this region. So we booked our stay at Huntingdon House on the Satemwa Tea Plantation and got on the road south, again!
We made it to the house and were instantly pumped about our weekend. This house is one of the oldest in Malawi – it was built in the 1930’s – and the Kay family that owned it (after moving to Malawi from Scotland) started planting tea in the 1920’s. Satemwa became a great producer of tea in the country and was the first Fair Trade tea company here. (They seem to treat their staff well, too – they have over 2,000 workers and they provide health care, schooling and housing for everyone.) After settling into our room – ‘Father’s Room’ – we went on a hike. There are a ton of trails on the property and it was spectacular to see the fields and fields and fields and more fields of tea. Seriously, I think it’s the greenest place I’ve been to in Malawi. I’d never seen tea plants before and they’re really cool! The hike was really nice – luckily, it wasn’t too hot – and we got to the picnic spot at the top of Mount Thyolo and enjoyed the scenery. Other guests at the house were coming up there to have sundowners so we joined them and had our first ‘G & Tea’ cocktails of the weekend. (It’s a special thing at the house where they have tea-infused gin with some tonic… YUM.) We rode in the truck on the way back and, for my first time in the back of a pick-up truck, I can’t say I loved it. But, it was better than getting lost on the windy roads in the dark. We got settled, had a lovely dinner and went to bed. What an awesome day!
The next morning, I slept in and Jon went on his first activity for the day, a bird-watching walk! There was a guide that met him at 7:00 am and they headed out. Jon said it was great and they saw lots of awesome stuff! (I maintain my decision to sleep in but I’m glad he had a nice time…) We had an awesome breakfast on our veranda, along with my first (of many) pot of tea… It was really humid because there were rumblings of the first rains of the season starting up, so it made everything feel pretty gross. But, we powered through and headed out for our scheduled tea tasting at the factory! We were the first ones there – we got added on to a German tour group – and then we watched a video about Satemwa’s history. We went to the tasting room where they had all of the teas Satemwa can produce and they gave each of us an espresso cup with boiled water in it and a spoon. We proceeded to go down the line of teas (from light to dark), stuck our spoons in, took a sip and then dipped our spoons into our cups to ‘clean them.’ I wished I had gone first in the line but that was ok… The teas were really nice and the only one I really didn’t like was the smoked tea. Blech. We headed out to the house and got settled in for a chill afternoon. Since we were doing ‘high tea’ later, we skipped lunch and played games and read for a few hours. (The only tricky part was trying to avoid the Thyolo Flies that are active during the day. They whiz by you, swipe your skin – leaving a drop of blood in their wake – and what results is a swollen, itchy bite. Seriously, I’m still itching like crazy, almost a week later.) We then had tea in the garden with little sandwiches, cakes, scones, iced tea and hot tea and coffee. (Satemwa also grows coffee!) It was delightful. We got washed up after the hot day, had more tea-themed & -infused cocktails and enjoyed a lovely dinner before heading to bed.
We slept in a bit the next morning (even though Jon had really wanted to go on another bird walk) and packed up a little. We had another yummy breakfast, one last pot of tea and started the check-out process. They had a bao board so we played that for a bit and tried to soak up the last few minutes of the gorgeous scenery. (It was much less humid that day, thankfully!) We had a really, really nice time there and I’m so glad we chose Thyolo as our last trip in Malawi.
Now the crunch time is really here for starting the journey back to the U.S…. Eek! 😦
– By Naama