The Koi-Hai Reunion 2022 - scroll to bottom of page for personal histories.

Assam map - donated by Robin & Maxine Humphries

Mike & Linda Bunston - ex London Tea Auctions & Wilson Smithett

Debra Barker & Hames Pogson. Vivian Fleury & Malcolm Geary

Mike Bunston & Jane Cawson

Maxine & Robin Humphries - lunch convenor

Debra Barker & Linda Bunston

Jacqueline Patel

Paul Graves & Caroline Morgan

Marjorie & Roger Swales

Aurora Prehn (KEW), Michael Aldous (Queens Univ Belfast) Charles Miller

Jacqualine Graham

Delicious lunch from Sevenmile Weddings & Events

1998 last tea auction London

Caroline Morgan and Paul Graves

Charles Miller, Jacqualine Graham and Stephen Farr and Jacqueline Patel

Roger Swales and Malcolm Geary

Maxine and Robin Humphries - convenor

Malcolm Geary, Roger and Marjorie Swales

James Pogson and Lydia Shortt

Denys Shortt and Jane Cawson

Christine Weir and Jacqueline Patel

Charles Shortt, Michel Aldous and Georgina Shortt

Charles Miller, Jacqualine Graham and Stephen Farr

Tea History Collection Banbury

Tea pots at Tea History Collection

Tea pots at Tea History Collection

Tea tasting with Mike Bunston OBE

Tea sample tins

Plantation House Tea Auction shields

Jorehaut Tea Company book

1928 Sample of Tea

1904 Sample of tea


2022 - Tea Museum Banbury

The 2022 Koi Hai Lunch was hosted by our Editor Denys Shortt OBE at his premises in Banbur - DCS Group UK.

Over 30 people gathered for the lunch and the day was full of sunshine.

Visits to the Tea museum, a curry lunch and lots of talk on Assam!


Tea Planters Lunch 2022 - Personal Histories


Robin Humphries (lunch organiser)

Robin is joined today by his wife Maxine and daughter Mo.

In 1958 I joined Dekhari Tea Estate in Moran District.  I took over running the factory after a settling in period from David Kilgour. 

I had an introduction to Chung Withering (drying of the leaves), the Rolling Room with rolling tables, and some very old CTC machines (* see notes at end of booklet) and Green Leaf Sifters.
Frank Knights was the Tea Estate Manager and Colin Colley was the Superintendent.  As soon as Mr Colley retired, and Frank was promoted, we started improving the worn out CTC* and the conveyors for the tea between CTC’s. Later we improved the conveyors for ‘made tea’ from the Driers right through to the tea packing machine. 
After a year in the out-garden at Naharani, I was transferred to Dhoedaam in the Doom Dooma District, Upper Assam. This was after Pabajan and Dhoedaam estates combined into one. 

I was ‘retrenched’ to the UK in 1967 after the rupee was devalued.



Dr Michael Aldous
Michael Aldous is Senior Lecturer in Management at Queen’s University Belfast.
He studied for his PhD in Economic History at the London School of Economics.
His PhD focused on the evolution of Anglo-Indian trading companies in the 19th century. As part of this study he researched the early years of the Indian tea industry, undertaking extensive archival research into the Assam Company and tea holdings of several Managing Agencies. His research has also covered the role of brokers, auctioneers, and other players in the tea market.
More recently he has written about the evolution of the tea industry and (British companies in India more generally) in the years after 1947. He is fascinated by the impact the industry has had on the lives of the many people involved in it and continues to collect stories to understand the effects of tea around the world. 

Celia Brown

My Father Syd Emmett was Manager of Glenburn tea Estate in Darjeeling from 1939 to 1968 – 29 years is a long time and therefore I always thought of Glenburn as being my home!
I have been back most years since my husband, Dr William Brown, died in 2005, and have seen the bungalow, and a new block built about five years ago, grow into an international boutique hotel known world wide.
I don't feel Glenburn has lost its charm in its new life, and I am always welcomed back warmly.

Stephen Brown

Born in Cinnamara I spent an idyllic and wild childhood before “detentioned “in the UK with short breaks for good behaviour back in Assam .
My father “Gusl “ Brown was the superintendent of the Jorehaut TC and we left India when I was 14. 
Very ,very many happy memories of swimming parties , picnics and a wonderful Ayah called Shali .

Mike Bunston OBE

Mike is joined by his wife Linda today.

Michael Bunston was Honorary Chairman of the International Tea Committee for 20 years (1993-2013). During his tenure at the ITC a number of countries have become members of the ITC in recognition of the service provided to the tea industry as a non-profit organisation.
Michael  retired in 2002 from one of the leading tea broking firms in the UK, which he joined in 1959 and after working up through the firm and learning all that is involved in the tea trade, was made a partner in 1975.
He has travelled extensively in Africa over the past 40 years, and more briefly in India & Sri Lanka. In 1966 he was seconded to Uganda for 18 months to run the marketing for a number of tea plantation and factory companies and an instant tea plant, owned by the Uganda Development Corporation.
He visited Rwanda for the first time in 1970, when there was only a very small interest in tea, and over the years saw the industry expand to cover thousands of hectares and the building of number of factories. His company represented the Government plantations in the London auction and achieved some of the highest prices for their tea. After the genocide of 1994, he went back to Rwanda to arrange help in getting their teas back to the auction and witnessed the rehabilitation of a number of factories.
While engaging himself with his duties as a broker, playing a vital role in the London Tea Auctions, which finally closed in 1998 after 164 years, he served on a number of Tea Trade Committees, including The European Tea Committee and chaired the Tea Brokers Association and The United Kingdom Tea Association.
In recent times he has positioned the ITC to take on wider responsibility and has chaired discussions between producer and consumer countries to address challenges facing the global tea industry.
In 2014 he had the honour of being awarded an OBE by the Queen for services to the International Tea Industry. He sits on the committee of The Friends of Sri Lanka in London.


Jane Cawson (Holton)

In October 1952 I went to India, when I was 10 months old, with my mother Elizabeth Glory Holton on the ship “Circassia”.

I met my father Alan Douglas Rolfe Holton for the first time in Calcutta and then went onto where we were to live in Assam.

The place was called Doomur Dullung (Lower Bridge) Tea Estate in Assam province (Northern India.)

Doomur Dullung is owned by one of the oldest tea companies in the world, Assam Company, and supplies Twinings, Yorkshire Tea, Harrods and Fortnum and Mason. Dibrugarh was the nearest town about 30 miles away.

We had a holiday in Shillong, Cherrupunji. I remember the fishing there and the leeches!

Something which my father often used to mention was me on holiday there running up the hills in a pair of red trousers and a yellow jumper. It was hot, humid and flat country. Frequently had tigers and snakes around the house.

My Dad worked very long hours in the tea factory starting early each morning and coming back home for breakfast and then back out again till late into the afternoon. I think it was very hard work and he helped with the machinery mainly.

I had an Ayah called Klesibon (La La) who taught me to speak Hindi/Khasi and the local dialect and to dance with bells around my ankles and wrists. Mum did not work but La La looked after me most of the time as was the way things were in those days! Her house was in the garden and I used to spend a lot of time with her there. I used to sing with her and she taught me a song called “Lara Lappa, Lara Lappa,”which was my favourite! I never stopped singing it. I need a translation but I think it’s about girls in an office standing up against the men!

Things I can remember are the garden and eating peas. The house had a large wooden veranda running around the whole house on wooden stilts. There was a huge concrete bath near mother and father’s bedroom with the hot water put through the wall by the house boys.

My mother had a sausage dog called Sally.

My liking for curry started then and I used to eat Dhal for breakfast and marmalade on toast dipped into boiled eggs. I remember quite vividly shopping trips to the local market and getting bangles and dolls. I must have spent much of my time with La La as English was not my first language at that time.

I do remember that most afternoons we, Mum La la and me used to go down to the river and watch the elephants being bathed because in those days they were still used for work, eg. Moving timber and riding etc. I apparently used to love it. I’m not sure which river it was but we were very close to the Brahmaputra.

The Moran Club was about 4 miles away and was where most of the socialising went on.

My mother and father became keen tennis players and Dad also played Polo which he excelled at. Also cricket and anything else sporty he could get into!

We left India in April 1956 as the end of my father’s 5-year tour and then moved onto a tea estate in Tanzania.

Stephen Farr

My introduction to the Tea Industry was through my Grandfather. He was Henry Jones and was Senior Partner with Ewart MacCaughey & Co. He was also Director of Tea with the Ministry of Food in 1944.
I was offered an appointment by The Assam Company on 12th October 1954 and 3 weeks later sailed to India from Liverpool on 6th November 1954. I well remember having language lessons in the veranda cafe from one of the returning “Burra Memsahibs” on board.
I was taken by the General Manager to my first garden - Gelakey in Nazira district. I shared the Chota bungalow with an Assamese assistant to start with. I was the Factory Assistant for the rainy season. Tom Darby was the Manager and there were two out garden assistants.
I was transferred to Doomur Dullung in Moran district in 1956 spending three years running the factory.
During that time I had a holiday with John Darby (Tom’s cousin) in Shillong. We also had a holiday in Gopalpur. I played cricket with Denys Wild for the Planters XI. Also had a try at polo with some success.
My six months home leave in the UK was unsettling and although I returned I had decided not to remain. I resigned and returned to the UK in November 1960. 


Malcolm D Geary
Malcolm is here with Vivian Fleury.

Born in 1939 in Solihull with a barrage balloon tethered in the back garden as an air raid precaution, I gravitated to London via 6 schools.
He started in tea at Thomas Cumberledge & Inskip in early 1960 via James Warren into the Dekhari Tea Co. A change from a trainee buyer at Harrods.
Transport by SS Corfu of the P&O Line to Bombay. Train to Calcutta via Allahbad with 3 window sections – glass to keep out the dust, louvres to keep out the sun aand mesh to keep out the mosquitos. Air conditioning was via a fan blowing onto a bucket of ice in the ceiling.
At Calcutta the senior bods (Sir Richard Duckworth and Malcolm Smith) greeted myself, Morris and Fortescue.
DC3 aircraft to Mahanbari – airstrip made out of wartime steel linked sections. Flash yankee limousine takes us to the tea world.
My manager, an ace sportman, said if I plant my stick here today there will be 2 tomorrow. We get the tea from the low bushes not from the shade trees. That was my training course!
Dekhari Tea Co (Warrens) at Deohall Tea Estate (Assam)  - factory assistant (Kamjari).
Assistant on Rytok division. Tennis & golf at Tingri Planters Club.
Unpopular for painting the main entrance bridge in high grade food spec emulsion prior to Director's inspection visit – cold weather of course. Tingri Planters Club librarian


Charles Miller

Son of J Irvine and Rose Miller, Chief Engineer with Duncan Brothers for Chulsa Tea, then Zurrantee TE for the war years (when parts and fuel were scarce).
Design & install security paper (banknote) processes in MP and then Consultant Engineer Oil Drilling & Well Control in Bombay and Dehra Dun.


Caroline Morgan and Paul Graves

Paul and Caroline Graves, eldest of Cyril & Tertia Graves 3 children. 
In 1950 Paul was born in Panitola, when Dad was based at Runga Mutti Tea Estate & Sealcotti.  Caroline was born in Barnet in 1953!
We returned to Singri Tea Estate in about 1956 and moved onto Bamgaon Tea Estate in 1958.  We remember the beautiful, colourful birds that used to land in huge flocks on the lawn at dusk, our ayah, Kaysi Bon who came from Shillong, Christmas parties at Thakubari Club, our siamese cats, Sing Sing and Ming Ding, our bearers, Mhodna, Mahendra and Huri, our lovely cook, Bustum and Sunday picnics up in the foothills of the Himalayas when we used to swim in the Boreli river.


James Pogson

James Pogson has spent all his working life in the tea trade. Starting work in his family business, Northern Tea Merchants, in 1988, James started to learn the ropes and was initially put in the packing department, followed by logistics and then in the mid-90’s was introduced to the finer points of tea tasting, his favourite tea at that time being Rwandan – Gisovu estate. Tasting this tea ‘fresh’ from air-freighted samples is one of his earliest tea tasting memories.
In 1998, James was promoted to Operations Manager, and over the next 9 years he radically improved the business, firstly by gaining qualifications that meant he could improve the already high standards, allowing the business to further expand. In 2007, Northern Tea Merchants became a limited company, and James was awarded a directorship and 50% of the shares in the new venture, which continues to run successfully today.

Since 2010, James has been an executive director of the UK Tea and Infusions Association, having been Vice Chairman between May 2013 and May 2015 and Chairman between May 2015 and May 2017. He has travelled extensively to origin, spoken about tea on TV, National Radio and given hundreds of talks on tea to interested parties, including schools and universities, international conferences and the many smaller groups who have an interest in tea.
In 2014, James was invited to join the London Tea History Association Board and is delighted to have donated a few of the items you can see in the Tea History Collection.


Aurora Prehn

Aurora is American and is here for the summer to finish a research project, interrupted by Covid, at Kew Gardens and the Tea History Collection, with the sponsorship of Denys Shortt. Aurora is from Wisconsin, and moved to St. Louis, Missouri last year for work at the Missouri Botanical Garden. She is a Research Specialist, focusing on tea, as well as their Biocultural Collection Manager. Aurora completed her BA in Anthropology and Environmental Studies from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2013 where her research and subsequent publication examined local food culture, health, and the environment. She found her passion for tea early on and following graduation she spent five years at Rishi Tea & Botanicals. She started out as a tea blender on the factory floor, then moved to their warehouse, customer service, sales (wholesale) and marketing, before finishing as an educator and tea taster focusing on East Asian teas. In 2019 she completed her MSc in Ethnobotany at the University of Kent and the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in the United Kingdom. Her research took her to the country of Georgia where she spent three and a half months researching the biocultural relationship between Georgians, their landscape, and the grapevine. Aurora has been researching the tea and teaware objects in the Economic Botany Collection at Kew Gardens since December 2019.


Iain & Judy Ross 1958 to 1984

A few years of army service, mostly in North Africa seemed acceptable to the nabobs in Mincing Lane, and Iain embarked on the SS. Circassia, bound for India, becoming part of a sociable group of planters returning from leave.
The morning following his arrival at Phulbari in Thakurbari district, North Bank  Assam, he saw his first tea bush, heard his first word in hindi, and found himself in-charge of a 400 acre outgarden, relieving the mistri sahib one night a week in a factory, run by thudding marine engines, rattling line-shafts and belts which kept going loose or breaking. A pleasant aroma of apples made up for the noise.     
After a few acting-managements he took over as burra sahib at Dirial in the South bank district of Tingri, moving on after a few years to Koomsong in Doom Dooma, and finally returning to the North Bank at Mijicajan as superintendent of the Majuli Co.
Accepting an offer to join a team advising the Bangladesh Tea Board, the next few years were spent in bucking around Sylhet and the Chittagong Hill Tracts, visiting a wide, “very wide”, variety of tea estates.   


David Rushton

I joined Andrew Yules in East Pakistan in 1958 but Xmas with the Wrangham’s on Pertablghur convinced me to make a move and I joined Jardines the next year.  
Moortee/Matelli (Dennis Peters!) in the Western Dooars and then invalided home after Ceylon Quadrangular. 
Then returned to Addabarrie with Mike Bishop (a pleasure) followed by Guy Henson not so. 
Mechpara with Donald Clark and last 2 years on Hunwal with Holly Scallon. Devaluation of the rupee 1966 scuppered practically all European presence and I returned home to sell tractors in Latin America.


Denys Shortt OBE

Denys is here with his wife Deborah who is American. 
They are with their son is Charles who is a Director at DCS and married to Georgina.  Their daughter Lydia is also here - a teacher, and here with her baby boy George. Three generations of the family are here!

My father Peter Shortt went to Assam aged 20 in 1952 and worked for Jorehaut Tea Company. 
He was at Rungagora Tea Estate and Langharjan Tea Estate until 1970 spending 18 years in Assam.
The family then moved to Uganda for a year (Idi Amin was in power!) and then to Thika in Kenya working for Brooke Bond at Ikumbi Tea Estate in Thika. 
Peter and his wife Rosemary had five children and moved back to the UK in 1975 to start The Shakespeare Tea and Coffee Company in Henley-in-Arden. Both have now passed away.

Denys at age 16 played hockey for England and went to Warwick School. 
At 29 he started DCS Group which now employs 500 people. The company specialises in health, beauty and household brands and is headquartered in Banbury. 

He was awarded an OBE in 2013 for helping manage Government Enterprise Partnerships.

Denys is passionate about saving the history of tea and Assam. He is the editor and sponsor of Koi-Hai.  He is co-founder of The Tea History Collection with his son Charles.


Roger Swales

Roger is here with his wife Marjorie.

My Dad, Vic Swales joined James Warren, as was, from the Assam Rifles in 1947...right after independence.
He was posted to Doom Dooma tea gardens....first as Assistant at Raidang Tea Estate and then in 1950 he became the Manager.
I was born at Panitola and my brother at Chubwa and Raidang Tea Estate Burra Bungalow was our home for the next 18 years.
We moved to Beesakopie Tea Estate in 1968. My mother and father left Assam in 1972 and went back to the UK.
I had the opportunity to go back to Raidang in 2000 for a nostalgic return..


Christine Weir

Chris Weir, who currently lives in Greenwich, is the great-granddaughter of Henry Weir (1844-1917) buried in the Anglican Cemetry in Shillong. He partly owned, and managed, the Kalline Tea Estate with the Davidsons. 
Chris, a recently retired librarian, is very interested in her family history and hopes to be able to visit Assam soon. 


** Notes

CTC tea leaves are the black tea leaves produced using the industrial method of CTC. CTC is the acronym of Crush, Tear, Curl. The name is self-explanatory to the technique used for production. 

The tea leaves produced using the orthodox method are controlled to make sure the tea leaves are cut and torn to a precise level. The oxidation level is maintained to a controlled level and is hand-rolled. CTC tea leaves are cut, torn and rolled simultaneously using a CTC processing machine. 

The tea leaves produced using the CTC method become hard reddish pellets. In this method, tea leaves are made to pass through a series of sharp blade rotors which crush and tear open the plucked tea leaves. Machines then roll these tea leaves into rigid pallets of tiny size. Tea leaves produced using this method are robust in flavor, have a slightly bitter taste and are very quick to infuse.

CTC tea leaves are significantly in demand for the quick and robust infusion it provides. This is the reason CTC tea leaves complement greatly with milk to produce milk tea. Milk is a naturally sweetened drink. It, therefore, needs a much more potent and faster infusion to yield the best quality tea. Milk tea and CTC tea leaves are inseparable partners. 

CTC tea leaves are passed through a series of cylindrical rollers with several sharp teeth that crush, tear, and curl the tea into small, hard pellets. The pellets vary in size and are sorted according to this into various grades, each with a quality specific to them.