When it comes to tea, a company that’s just under a century and a half old is a relative youngster when stacked up against the likes of certain more senior concerns. Take Twinings, for instance. They’ve been doing their thing for 300 years, which is a pretty impressive figure by anyone’s reckoning. But of course 140 odd years – which is how long Williamson Tea has been in business – is hardly anything to sneeze at.
The Williamson Tea story is a bit involved, with various mergers and acquisitions along the way, but suffice to say that they got their start in 1869 with Captain J.H. Williamson and Richard Boycott Magor, two Calcutta-based Englishmen who formed Williamson Magor & Company. Nowadays, Williamson Tea is part of McLeod Russel, a company which claims to be the largest tea producer in the world. For more on the intricacies of the Williamson and McLeod Russel story refer to the McLeod Russel history page and to a previous article in these pages.
Williamson’s products are easily recognized by the ubiquitous elephant that adorns its packaging. While much of that packaging is fairly standard stuff, certain teas are also available in a range of eye-catching and somewhat offbeat elephant tea caddies.
In addition to being part of a powerhouse of tea production and selling its own line of teas, Williamson has also gone into charitable works at a level that most tea companies never get to. After a near tragedy in 1979 at the Fastnet yachting race in the UK, the company set up a separate line called Lifeboat Tea.
A portion of proceeds from Lifeboat Tea go to help the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), the self-described “charity that saves lives at sea.” The company’s aim is to raise “over £200,000 a year for the RNLI, with funds going towards training and equipping their volunteer crews.” The tea that goes into Lifeboat Teas is grown at the company’s four tea farms in the highlands of Kenya, located at elevations that range from about 6,000 to 7,500 feet.
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