Factory Index



By the 1920s the Lyons tea business had expanded dramatically, particularly after their acquisition of the Horniman and Black & Green companies. The new tea factory at Greenford had come on-line and all production of tea, coffee and cocoa, until now carried out at different sites, had been transferred. Most of the leaf tea which Lyons used in their blending process came from the London auction rooms in Mincing Lane, London. Some was obtained direct from agents in Calcutta and Colombo and their subsidiary, Lyons (India) Ltd., supplied local markets.

In 1923 an approach was made to Lyons to invest in one of the up-and-coming tea areas in Africa, known then as Nyasaland, but now Malawi. A block of some 8,000 acres, situated on the south base of the 10,000 ft Mlanje mountain, had come onto market. Harry Salmon, a shrewd property buyer, took charge of the negotiations. After many months agreement on price was finalised and Lyons became the owners of a Tea Plantation, or Tea Garden as some call it. Much of the property was still undeveloped and large areas of bush and forest had to be cut back before tea planting could commence. A plantation manager from Celyon (now Sri Lanka) was employed and he took control of all local matters including the employment of labour, many of whom came from the Portuguese colony to the south. Some disputes arose regarding the estate's boundaries, both with the Government and local garden owners, but these were resolved, eventually. A part of the estate was too difficult to grow tea and this was given over to timber and sisal crops both of which could be used on the tea estate. Accommodation bungalows and a large factory-type building was erected. Seedlings were planted and nurtured over many years until the trees (bushes) became productive. The young leaf was picked and laid out in the large drying lofts before weighing and boxing into tea chests for transport to the coast (by railway) and onward shipment by freighter to the UK. As electricity was not available in this part of Africa, at least not in the tea growing area, Lyons dammed a local river, installed generators and produced their own electricity.

The tea estate was not intended to satisfy all of Lyons needs. Firstly it was too small to satisfy their demands but more importantly, blends were made from more than one garden and locality and the Lujeri tea was just one ingredient in the recipe. Nevertheless the plantation was fairly productive and gave Lyons a small control over their supplies.

In the 1960s a new constitution was written for Nyasaland as Britain disposed of its Empire. Changes in the political situation began to have a detrimental effect on the business and by the 1970s Lyons decided to dispose of their undertakings to Brooke Bond, a strong competitor in the UK market.



© Peter Bird 2002