The company began as a partnership between Captain J. H. Williamson and Richard Blamey Magor. Richard, who had not been brought up in the tea industry, left his home in Cornwall. “At the time in Cornwall, you either went down a mine or went to sea,” Richard’s descendant Edward Magor explains. Rather than adhere to either option, Richard moved to the Far East and found work at the Great Eastern Hotel in Calcutta. A chance meeting with Captain Williamson, who was already well-versed in tea production in Assam, struck a partnership that neither could have predicted would thrive another 150 years later. After World War II, Richard left India to set up tea farms in East Africa.
“Kenya is God’s gift to tea growing, with fertile soils, regular rainfall, and plenty of sunshine, making ideal conditions for growing high-quality teas,” says Edward, who serves as Managing Director of Williamson Fine Tea.
Today, Williamson Tea—the retail side of the business known as Williamson Magor & Co.—works out of Little Bedwyn in the United Kingdom. Over the course of its extensive history, the company has expanded, owning a total of four farms: Changoi, Tinderet, Kaimosi, and Kapchorua in Kenya.
“Williamson Tea has over 150 years of experience in the art of growing and producing fine teas,” Edward notes. “It is this experience and knowledge that allows us to produce the famed high-quality teas that set us apart from other brands. As farmers, we are also unique. All of our teas come with a ‘Tea Passport,’ a code of conduct endorsed by third-party certification bodies guaranteeing not only our distinctive quality of manufacture, but also truly sustainable and ethically produced tea.”
An African elephant serves as the iconic symbol for Williamson Tea, as it represents not only the farms in Kenya, but also the company’s commitment to wildlife conservation, started by Edward’s grandfather, who was heavily involved in the effort in India. In 2015, Edward set up a charitable partnership between Williamson Tea and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. The trust works to offer hope for the survival and future of Kenya’s elephant and rhino population against poachers and the loss of natural habitat due to human population, human conflict, deforestation, and drought.
“Wildlife conservation has always been very important to Williamson Tea,” Edward remarks. “The world can live without many things, but it would be a sad day if there were no longer elephants and rhinos.”