Huntingdon House on Setemwa Tea Estate – Luxury to spoil my parents

When my parents were discussing what they should do to celebrate being married for 40 years this August they had visions of going away some place fancy and relaxing. Camping in Zambia and Malawi didn’t enter into those dreams. That is, not until Cheryl and I brought up the idea that they could join us. Despite their reservations about camping they decided to forego white, sandy beaches and barmen serving pina coladas with two cherries stuck to the end of a mini beach umbrella for long rides in our dust-filled pick-up and the stress of immigration lines and African driving.

Because of their anniversary and the fact that we live an ocean apart, Cheryl and I wanted to spoil them at least one night while on the trip. In figuring out what to do we came across Huntingdon House on Setemwa Tea Estate. It is a beautiful colonial home in southern Malawi built by Cathcart Kay a few generations ago. The house has been revitalised and now serves as fairly luxury accommodation for intrepid travellers. It is situated on Setemwa Tea estate which affords gorgeous views across the farm as you drive in to the hotel. It sounded like the perfect place to celebrate 40 years. We were sold.

Before we got there though, we decided to take a stop at the Zomba plateau, an hour south of Liwonde. We drove up a windy escarpment road passed ladies carrying wood on their heads, running down the hill and farmers selling fresh fruit along tight hair-pin corners and narrow lanes.

We stopped for some strawberries on the way up along with a few photos at a dam before continuing to a hotel where we were given directions for a beautiful hike through the woods.

This part of Malawi was like nothing that we had experienced on our trip so far. Tall evergreen forests and cold mountain mist defined the plateau as we hiked down dirt roads (downhill and back uphill again..) We eventually got to a beautiful waterfall where we settled in to snack on trail mix and our fresh batch of strawberries before returning to the car to continue on our way to Setemwa. It was a great place for a hike and a cool way to break up the drive.

Stopping next to a waterfall for some strawberries and a few photos

As we pulled into Setemwa we were greeted by expansive views of the tea estate and followed a road which wound its way through fields of tea being picked by men and women wearing blue coveralls and using shears to chop off the top few leaves before tossing them into a giant open plastic basket worn on their backs like a back-pack. We eventually got to Huntingdon house in the middle of the estate and enjoyed some, believe it or not, tea as a welcome drink before having a walk around the estate and preparing ourselves to relax for the afternoon. My mom and I had an epic battle of croquet (not saying it was as epic as the height of our golf competitions but the win counted the same in my book!) before we all got ready for dinner. We were soon sipping on tea-inspired versions of classic cocktails (like the Mo-tea-to which used tea leaves and mint or the G and Tea which used tea-infused gin along with tonic) as we waited for everything to be prepared.

The staff were exceptionally friendly and had decorated the dining room specially for my parents anniversary. Lit by candle light and a roaring fire we dined in the family dining room and had it all to ourselves (there was only one other couple staying in the 5 rooms of the estate.) We thoroughly enjoyed the meal and the evening. It was as special as we had hoped it would be.

 

In the morning, before hopping back in the car to drive to Lake Malawi we opted for some tea tasting at the factory where they actually produce the tea. We learned all about how tea is produced, the differences between types of tea and the work that the estate is doing throughout Malawi. We left only after I offended the tea expert (what is the tea version of sommelier?) by asking how rooibos was made (it turns out it’s not tea.)

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We had told my parents to bring one nice outfit for dinner that night but realized we didn’t have anything nice ourselves.  To be ‘nice’ we kept a clean shirt each.  Talk about a treat!

In the morning, before hopping back in the car to drive to Lake Malawi we opted for some tea tasting at the factory where they actually produce the tea. We learned all about how tea is produced, the differences between types of tea and the work that the estate is doing throughout Malawi. We left only after I offended the tea expert (what is the tea version of sommelier?) by asking how rooibos was made (it turns out it’s not tea.)

Favorite fact from the morning: all tea is made from the same plant, just oxidized differently and mixed with different ingredients or using different parts of the leaf.

Next stop: Domwe Island – Lake Malawi

One thought on “Huntingdon House on Setemwa Tea Estate – Luxury to spoil my parents

  1. Our 40th anniversary I’ll always be one of the most memorable days of all. Thank you Josh and Cheryl. I enjoyed every second of it. Love you both.

    Like

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