Huntingdon House, Satemwa Tea Estate

Satemwa was founded in 1923 by Maclean Kay, who was a rubber planter from Malaya where he worked from 1910 after emigrating from Ayreshire, Scotland. He bought Satemwa (then called Hunterston) from Timunke. It was one of the original 74 certificates of claim that were registered in 1892 with Sir Alfred Sharpe, the then Consul General resident at Chinde on the mouth of the Zambezi. It is now managed and run by the 3rd generation of the Kay family

Maclean Kay's first agricultural venture was tobacco which had been grown on the Satemwa Estate since the turn of the century. Maclean Kay, in 1926, established the first tea field on Satemwa. Part of this field is kept as a museum item to this day and remains one of the companies highest yielding fields.

In 1928 Maclean Kay introduced the first Camellia sinensis var.assamica seed into the Nyasaland tea industry from India. (This seed formed the basis of expansion until the late 1960's). The first leaf was transported by head load to a neighbouring factory (5kms away!), until the present factory was built in 1937.

During the great depression of 1929-34, Maclean Kay worked for Don & Ross (a Glasgow based company) as a means of survival. He worked on Mianga estate at this time and was able to visit Satemwa every weekend to monitor progress. In 1929 Maclean Kay married Flora Jean Moffat - Baiely and had three children; Alexander Cathcart Kay, Robert Gordon (Chip, the current MD) Cathcart Kay and Juliet Cathcart Kay, all of whom were born at Namireme house on Mianga. In 1934, they returned to Satemwa to rebuild their home (which had been destroyed by fire in the interim), now Huntingdon House.

The Boyzz were honored to have a photo with Chip Kay


The house was built in 1934 to replace the original house that burnt down after a lightening strike. Tea is their business and tea is now planted on 900 Hectares, which is an awful lot of tea. The low tea bushes stretch for miles, as far as the eye can see, in tight, well trimmed rows. In addition there is a small acreage of coffee trees.

To stay in the house is to step back into the 1940s. It is fair to say that money needs to be spent in maintenance and redecoration. But it does ooze charm, down to the blazing log fires in the evening, candlelit dinners, fresh cakes for afternoon tea. With only 5 rooms it is very private and is like being a personal guest in a country house. Our room was large, and staff put in a hot water bottle each evening as nights could be cold here

We took one of their marked self guided walks (the trail marking could have been better) which took us on a pleasant stroll, for more than an hour, through the tea and coffee plantations

We went for the tea tasting in their nearby tea processing factory. I had not known that all tea, green or black, comes from the same bush, the difference being in how it is processed (air dried, kiln dried, rolled or chopped, sieved for size). Most of the tea grown here is exported in bulk - that is not under their own brand - to be blended in London.

Chip Kay comes round most evenings to meet guests. We had a great chat with him about the history of the house, the tea estate, and his life in Africa.

I would recommend anyone to stay at Huntingdon in order to see a different side to Malawi from Game Lodges and Lake Resorts. We really enjoyed our stay