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The Estate

Luponde Organic Tea Estate

The Luponde Tea Estate is one of the oldest organic tea estates in the world and the climate is perfect for growing tender leaves and flowers which are handpicked, bringing you the highest quality single estate teas. The estate is situated in the stunning Livingstonia Mountains in Southern Tanzania and at an altitude of 7,000 feet. Tea was first planted on the estate in 1954 and today covers 2,212 hectares. There are 730 hectares of planted tea, of which 401 are organic and there are currently 20 hectares of herbal plants. The estate produces on average 2 million kilograms of black tea a year and the majority of this is tea bag grade. The Luponde estate is the only steady source of income for the people who live in this area and in peak season 80 kilograms of wet leaf will be picked per day by one person.

The Luponde tea estate has been Fairtrade certified since 1994 and Rainforest Alliance certified since 2012.

We have collaborated with our team at the estate to turn some of the disused areas back to indigenous forest. By planting 30,000 trees, we hope to counterbalance our use of paper and card for gift wrapping.

The purpose of my interest in Luponde Tea Estate is the fact that I was born in Uwemba Mission, some 20 Kilometres from Luponde. That was in 1946 that makes me 66 years old. My late parents were pioneers in the area having received a 99 year concession from the British Authorities to establish "farming" activities in the region, that was in the thirties. My parents were the first pioneers in "virgin" territory and established Helvetia Farm, (I am a Swiss Italian) therefore Helvetia being the recognised name for Switzerland.

My parents worked hard and long, and ultimately established a going concern, commencing with a Pyrethrum farm; some 1 000 hectares was cultivated and we sold the raw materials to a British Company named Mitchell & Cotts. During the late 50's Pyrethrum was a "nasty" word, demand depleted and we were going out of business. We employed some 750 personnel, housed, fed and looked after their wellbeing both health and domestically.

Our farming activities were quite diversified, we kept cattle, sheep, pigs, et al. The latter allowed us to sustain ourselves; I am part of 12 siblings!! Notwithstanding, something had to be done in order to take care of our future. Father decided that "TEA" was the way forward. We commenced a tea nursery, identified the areas for permanent planting. Our capital was minimal at the time, fertilizer was expensive, and we could not afford the luxury. Our herd of cattle, sheep, pig's et al was an ideal method of supplementing the nutrition that our beloved Tea Nursery required. We were laughed at by surrounding farmers. We transplanted into the fields, miracle, the crop was healthy, growing in abundance, all was well, and the future looked good.

Luponde Tea Field - Feb 2007

Our neighbouring Farmer was a certain Mr Jameson, owner at the time of Luponde Farms. He was an elderly British gentleman; he also commenced to plant Tea. Unfortunately he passed away and is buried at Luponde Tea Estates under a forest of Pine Trees; he was also my Godfather.

Tea being weighed

A very successful Indian company from Kenya heard the news, made an offer to purchase Luponde, was successful in their bid. They then imported Tea Experts from India and established themselves at Luponde. With large capital investments, they expanded the growing of Tea at Luponde Farm. We were neighbours, our land was equally excellent for expansion, our infrastructure was solid; they became extremely interested in acquiring Helvetia Farm. At this time, education for my siblings and me was becoming a huge problem in Tanganyika; independence was looming. My parents decided to negotiate the sale of Helvetia Farm and move to Canada for the benefit of education and their children’s future.”

Written by Gian Carlo Togni.