Our Farm Blog

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Tea... Naturally; Ancient but Infinitely Modern 

A recent visit to the Natural & Organic Products Europe at Olympia revealed a variety of teas in all their glory, from beautiful loose teas, whacky floral varieties, super matcha and bottled green tea, they are all there, displayed alongside a multitude of supplements, ancient grains and wild seeds. Despite the many advancements in science, nutrition and dietary analysis it is the ancient fruits, grains and plants that are returning to popularity with health conscious consumers.

Ever since Shen Nong discovered the stimulating and detoxifying properties of tea over 4,000 years ago, humans have been interested in its medicinal properties. It is these properties that first made it popular, at a time when it was considered a medicine. It was thought that its bitter taste stimulated wakefulness, good overall health and the acquisition of great wisdom. Whilst sadly the belief of tea providing the exlir of immortality has not proven the health benefits of tea cannot be ignored. The antioxidants in tea and other beneficial properties often attributed to the drink, from activating circulation to reducing fatigue and cholesterol mean that tea is becoming increasingly popular not just as humble cuppa but as an essential daily ritual to help deal with the stresses of modern life.

So go on have a brew and remember whats in your cup is both an ancient and modern natural health product!

Friday, 7 February 2014

Breast Cancer Care Awareness Day on Changoi

As part of Williamson Tea's partnership with Breast Cancer Campaign, Williamson Tea has been actively promoting Breast Cancer Awareness on all of our Kenyan Farms.

The recent awareness day held at Changoi was a huge success with a dedicated team bringing home the message of Breast Cancer Awareness to the many women that live and work on the farm.

Awareness meeting at the residential areas.

Campaign being handled at with the Plucking Gang.
'Ladies Talk' campaign awareness.
Campaign being driven home to the pluckers.

The team of trainers setting off for the campaign and other parts of the farm.
Trainers arriving at one of the many assembling points.
Discussion time.
Nothing as good as a keen group internalising the campaign message.
Factory ladies attentively listening to the teachings on the awareness talk.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Launch of Breast Cancer Campaign Pink Love Elephant Caddy

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and to launch Williamson Teas partnership with Breast Cancer Campaign (BCC) and the release of our new Pink Love Elephant Caddy, the Williamson Tea team held a tea party in BCC's head office in Clifton Street, London.

With the full office in attendance, the BCC staff were able to sample Kenyan High Grown, Earl Grey and Pure Green teas, all fresh from Williamson Tea's farms in Kenya. To add to the atmosphere, the Hummingbird Bakery had made pink cupcakes, the perfect accompaniment to a Pink Love cup of tea!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Renewable Energy and Renewable Firewood Sourcing

In a lecture given at the Royal Agricultural College in 2012, Cirencester, Professor John Sulston, stated how the planet and its resources are finite and that it was no longer an option to invest in renewable energy sources but a necessity. A view that we agree whole heartily with.

For the past five years we have been actively engaged in securing our own source of firewood from gum plantations to enable us to operate our factories with the desired high voiumes of green leaf. The cycle of these gum plantations from planting to harvest is approximately 12 years. By the end of 2015 we hope to have secured sufficient areas on our own land to manage our factories responsibly with our own sources of gum trees. When we buy firewood, which is a costly operation, we only buy from mature sustainable gum plantations. Regrettably this is not always the case with our competitors. More factories in Kenya are opening and being granted manufacturing licenses. These factories do not have a secured supply of sustainable firewood and we often view immature and unseasoned wood from indigenous or unsustainable sources being sold, even on the roadsides.

This practice was recently highlighted by a quick witted journalist in a newspaper article and our trade body the KTGA has taken up the matter with the appropriate authorities. The lack of sustainable firewood to power our boilers and the lack of cost effective alternatives places a heavy restriction on the future growth of the Kenya Tea Industry.

The Commission of Sustainable Agriculture lists a number of essential reforms need to ensure the long term viability of operations and systems. Amongst these are the need to trap carbon and this combined with the rising cost of essential inputs such as electricity has meant that we have made the decision to invest into a large scale Solar Photovoltaic system at Changoi. The aim is to provide sufficient power to run the factory entirely from solar energy during daylight hours and we view this investment into solar technology as an essential part of our business operations to ensure it our sustainability. 

Monday, 16 September 2013

What does Sustainable Farming mean?

In recent years the prominence of environmental, social and economic challenges have raised, aggravated by climate change, population growth, soil degradation and destruction of wildlife habitat. Companies look harder into all aspects of their business to ensure long term viability not just for themselves but also the surrounding communities that their operations support.

Sustainability rests on the principle that we must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The stewardship of both natural and human resources is paramount. Stewardship of land natural resources involves maintaining or enhancing this vital resource base for the long term, whilst stewardship of human resources includes consideration of social responsibilities such as working and living conditions of farm workers, the needs of the rural communities and consumer health and safety both in the present and the future.

So what does Sustainable Farming mean to Williamson Tea?

Williamson Tea has always held a long term view of agriculture and the running of our farms, we are a fifth generation farming family, so know about planning for the long term!

We take a whole system approach with an understanding of wider awareness that allows us to appreciated how each activity on the farms are connected not just to the farm but also the local ecosystem, with communities affected by the farming system both locally and globally.

We consider carefully the three basic elements of sustainability;

Environment Protection; The first and most basic point, we aim to protect the natural resource base on which our farming depends, in other words sustainability in its most literal and narrow sense. As farmers and custodians of the land we understand the importance of improving soil fertility, reducing erosion and preventing water pollution, as well as strengthening biodiversity, conservation and sourcing energy from renewal sources. We are actively investing in Photovoltaic Systems for our farms to enable our factories to be powered entirely by Solar energy, whilst we are also self sufficient in firewood, sourcing all our timber from our own Eucalyptus Gum plantations.

Social Responsibility; Our farms employ many hundreds of people, who together with their families live on the farms and surrounding areas. We have a huge social responsibility towards these dependents and provide not only a safe environment for them to work in, but free housing, health care, education, family planning and importantly a level of wages in excess of any other comparable agricultural job in Kenya.  We invest in our work force helping to improve their skills and the opportunities available to them and our farms in the future.

Economic Viability; Long term success of any business depends on its economic viability and with local communities dependent on the success of the farm it is not just are own employees that we are responsible for. Whilst independent charitable schemes have their place, we are committed to the long term development of our communities and business and therefore it is ‘Trade Not Aid’ that will ensure the sustainability of Williamson Tea and our communities for years to come.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Williamson Tea  Online Twitter Chat in support of Follow the Frog Week

How it works;

Tweeters can send questions to Williamson Tea on the topic of Sustainable Tea Farming, with particular reference to renewable energy sourcing and wildlife maintenance.

Williamson Tea will pick 6 questions at 10 minute intervals from 3-4pm.

Anyone can join the open discussion by posting their opinion and comments using the #sustainabletea. Tweeters can follow the conversation by searching for the #sustainabletea in their Twitter search box.

Tweeters are asked to announce themselves and their affiliations when joining the Twitter chat and Williamson Tea reserve the right to choose which questions are answered and delete inappropriate or unconnected comments or questions immediately.

The following questions are suggested to get the chat rolling;
  •  What does Sustainable Agriculture mean?
  •  What are the key factors in sustainable tea production?
  • What works are currently undertaken by Williamson Tea to improve their sustainability.
  • Where does Williamson Tea source its power? Do other companies do the same?
  • What are the barriers to sustainable farming and sourcing renewable energy?
  • What are our plans for the future?

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Tea is not just for drinking!

Here in the Williamson Tea office, we're rather partial to accompanying our cup of Traditional Afternoon with a slice of cake and after many trials (not that anyone was complaining!) we found this recipe hits just the spot;

Earl Grey and Lemon Cake

150g Plain flour with ⅛tsp Baking powder well sifted.
150g Butter, softened
130g Icing Sugar
½ tbsp Glucose
3 Medium Eggs
Two pinches of salt
5g Williamson Fine Teas' Earl Grey Tea from 2 tea bags
15g Ground almond
1 tbsp Fresh whole milk
Lemon zest from 1 large lemon

  • Preheat oven to 170C. Line a loaf tin with parchment paper.
  • Beat butter, icing sugar and glucose together until light and very fluffy. Gradually add eggs and beat well, then add salt, tea dust, ground almonds, lemon zest and milk. Mix well.
  • Add flour mixture and fold through completely using a spatula. The surface of the batter should be glossy and smooth.
  • Pour the batter into prepared loaf tin and bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. 
  • Whilst the cake is baking make the lemon syrup by adding 50g sugar to 100g of very hot water, stir well and add 2 tbsp lemon juice, mix well again and set aside.
  • When the cake is baked, remove it from the oven and place onto a wire rack and peeling away the parchment paper. 
  • To finish brush the cake with lemon syrup whilst still warm.