The East African country of Malawi has been populated since the 13th century by the Marawi people. Portuguese explorers reached the area in the 16th century, and in 1859 David Livingstone arrived at the shores of Lake Malawi. British and Scottish settlers and missionaries arrived in the following years, and by 1891 the British established the British Central Africa Protectorate, later called the Nyasaland Protectorate. Malawi gained its independence in 1964.
The first Malawi tea was planted in 1878 and later plantings were done in the lowland areas of Malanje and Thyolo. The original Malawi tea plants were from Natal in South Africa, but the unpredictable weather of southern Malawi proved unsuitable for this variety. Since that time varieties more suitable to the Malawi climate have been developed.
Today, Malawi tea is grown mostly in the southern regions of the country near Thyolo and Mulanje in the Shire Highlands. Mulanje is the largest tea producing region. The area has excellent soil which produces high-grade tea. Malawi tea is harvested during the summer months (southern hemisphere) from October to April.
Malawi tea is black tea which brews to a reddish liquor. Malawi teas are not known as single estate teas and are used mostly for tea blends. Most of the estates are owned by foreign companies. Europe is the highest consumer of Malawi tea where it is used in many of the famous blends.