Tea, Coffee and Tourism
The translocation of 500 elephants to Nkhotakota Game Reserve and the restocking of lions and other wildlife to Liwonde National Parks has seen Malawi getting lots of press coverage as a tourist and wildlife safari destination of choice. The world-famous Lake of Stars also plays a vital role in selling Lake Malawi as an ideal leisure tourism destination. But can the country be sold as more than just a lake and a wildlife safari destination? Over the next few posts, I will attempt to discuss the different offerings suitable for both domestic and foreign tourists.
Located in the Shire Highlands, Satemwa Tea and Coffee Estate was established in 1923. The company grows tea on nearly 900 hectares of land which is then processed and packaged, some of which is exported around the world.
Satemwa organises individual and group tea tastings at their factory in Thyolo throughout the year while coffee tastings only run during the coffee season from May to September.
The estate’s Marketing & Business Development Manager Wouter Verelst says that there has been an increase in the demand for the tastings which he attributes to consumers wanting to know more about where their products come from. As they also sell teas and coffee overseas, Satemwa gets regular visits from tourists interested and passionate about tea and coffee.
“More and more consumers became aware of the health benefits of tea & coffee and want to learn more about these lovely artisanal products produced in Malawi,” said Wouter.
Each year, Satemwa Estates organises a few very specific Malawi Tea Tours that are mainly focused on European and American speciality Tea & coffee buyers and enthusiasts. It’s 7 days full of tea & coffee education!
In addition to tastings and tours, Satemwa for the first time hosted the Thyolo Tea Xtreme Run in May this year. Runners participated in a 10km and a 21km race through the estate’s tea fields. There was also a more leisurely 5km fun run.
Tourism is helping communities around Satemwa estate both through direct and indirect employment. Local artisans have the opportunity to sell art and crafts around Huntingdon House. Smallholder farmers also gain during the Malawi Tea Tours, showing tea lovers around their tea and herb plots while earning guiding fees.
Satemwa has also asked artisans in Thyolo to help with decorating exclusive tea packaging.
One problem that the Malawi Department of Tourism, and tourism boards in Africa in general, are trying to deal with is the low levels of domestic tourism. Most locals regard tourism-related travel and activities as expensive or simply unnecessary. So do Malawians patronise the tourism services that Satemwa provide?
“Our visitors are very diverse and mixed. We have regular Malawian school visits to learn more about tea and coffee. We have day visitors coming for high tea and we have guests staying at Huntingdon House for a few nights”, says Wouter. “We strongly believe in the importance of tourism for Malawi and we are also convinced that we have to be open, transparent and accessible. We still ask our visitors to book in advance and make arrangements with Huntingdon House but we are very happy to share the beautiful views and the passion we have for tea & coffee.”
Tourism and Digital Transformation
On this Tourism Month’s theme of Tourism and Digital Transformation, Wouter explained that digital has been a great tool to tell the Satemwa story.
“Social media have definitely helped to tell the Satemwa Tea & Coffee story. It is a great way to share the stories behind our teas & coffees and to share our knowledge. We also love to see people taking pictures on Satemwa and sharing them with their followers using #satemwa or #satemwatea. Further, it is a great tool to be in touch with other interesting projects, to learn from them and to get inspired.”
If you would like to participate in group walks and coffee tours keep your eye on their website and Facebook pages for notifications. Visitors can book in advance and make arrangements with Huntingdon House.
Cover image by David Davies