Mike Garnett


This page is dedicated to the writings of Mike Garnett ex Assam and now living in Victoria Australia



9th March 2019

I was interested to read the various recollections of ‘tea’ on the Koi Hai website.   Here are a few that may or may not be of interest.


I arrived at North Lakhimpur (Lilabari airfield) in early 1960 to commence a career in tea.   I travelled on the same ship to Bombay with Roy Church who became assistant to Peter Castle at Joyhing and I became assistant to Kim Dodwell at Harmutty.    We belonged to the Jokai (Balmer Lawrie) company.


You may be interested to know that an elderly planter (manager of Seajuli) was Tom (or Tam) Fairfield a pre-war planter.   During the war he organised his plantation labour force to help construct the road that became known as Ledo Road – or Stillwell Road which basically ran from east of Digboi into Burma.   Tom’s wife I think was Margaret – they were a nice couple, probably Scottish.


The Club was about eight miles from North Lakhimpur township, within the bounds of Dejoo tea plantation.    Peter Castle (Lucinda) and Kim Dodwell (Jean) served during the war with a Gurkha regiment.   Jimmy Strang was manager at Dejoo, he served in the RAF during the war.   The superintendent was Bob Gregory and later, Harry Jay.   One of my fellow-assistants was Nick Nicholson on Doolahat who did his national service in the army.    Duncan Hay was also at Harmutty – I think he was born in Calcutta.     Jimmy Foster was manager at Koilamari.   North Lakhimpur district was a small group of estates – the names of other planters that I recall were Jimmy Gilchrist (Cinnatolia) and Andy Tracey (Silonibari).  


On the South Bank (of the Brahmaputra) the two superintendents for Jokai at this time (early 1960’s) were Joe Lyss (Bokel) and Stu Campbell (Panitola - ex-Fleet Air Arm pilot).  The company employed a tea taster Nick Barham who had held a national service commission.   When China invaded India over the Himalayas (1962??) he offered his services to the Indian army but was not accepted.   I and many others from the North Bank, were evacuated during this time – via air force transport out of Tezpur.   


Sadly, every name that I have mentioned above are no longer with us.


Kind regards Michael Garnett (known as ‘Mick’ in Assam)


Romsey, Victoria, Australia



January 23 2013

Greetings to you all! - I have just returned from the South Island of New Zealand, a stunning country for those who have not been there.    As if they knew I was coming, I picked up a local newspaper and read an article about NZ's first tea plantation!     In Queensland we have two or three where the tea is harvested mechanically and consequently not much good unless you like plenty of stork.
The NZ plantation is on the North Island, just south of Auckland - specifically at Gordonton, Waikato.   They trade as Zelong Tea with  an area covering 40 hectares of oolong tea which commenced with just 130 plants brought back from Taiwan in 2009.    Apparently they now have a million plants - and they pick just three times a year - Nov, January and March.   All the tea is picked by hand (mainly by Cambodian immigrants) - they pick with razor blades taped to their index fingers and are instructed to just pick the two leaves and a bud.   I don't think I have ever tasted oolong tea.    If anyone is in touch with Sam MacKenzie, please tell him that I walked the Milford Track near Queenstown, because I reckon he may have done this when he lived in NZ many years ago.     Much of this area is known as 'MacKenzie Country' - all the best Mike