International Press Articles

DAILY NEWS - by Fathima Razik Cader

Fine Tea Tasting and Opera in Europe


Almost 350 years after tea was first sold in England (i.e. in 1657) an elite gathering was hosted to an event - the first of it's kind where those present went through the motions of fine tea tasting and opera, in exclusive venues in London in June 2002.

Along with this unique event was live Opera on hand to entertain the guests on a warm summer afternoon - and the whole exercise turned out to be an outright success with encores for more.

Unique is how one could describe such an event - for after all, when have we even heard of fine tea tasting and an opera going hand in hand? But this is exactly what happened when Sri Lanka's second oldest company - Mackwoods Ltd. embarked on a mission to not just promote Sri Lanka tea as a commodity, but also to show the tea drinkers in the world that tea is a beverage that needs to be truly appreciated and relished in every sense of the word.

Perhaps it might be appropriate to trace the history of tea, and for a start, a 12th century Japanese belief - "Wherever the tea tree grows, the place, whether a mountain or valley, is sacred". Sri Lanka in that context should therefore be considered sacred, on account of the vast areas in the hills and other regions where tea is grown profusely.

And Shen Nung found that is tasted as glorious, and thus this delectable drink was launched in the Courts of Cathay and became a firm feature

Also of interest is the fact that the origins of tea could be traced to China and the North East parts of India. It found its way to Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then called) in 1824 from China and 15 years later, in 1839 from Assam (India) and was grown in the Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya and Nuwara Eliya, respectively, on an experimental basis.

However, it took 28 (long) years thereafter, when tea planting on a commercial scale was undertaken. James Taylor planted tea on Loolecondra Estate in the Hewahata District with seeds procured from Assam (India). Around the same time, clearings were opened by the brothers Solomon and Gabriel de Worms at Labookellie Estate in the Ramboda District with seeds procured from China. The year 1873 saw the first tea export from Ceylon to London. It contained 23 pounds.

Twenty years later, the exports increased to a staggering 82 million pounds - the result of prudent expansion of tea planting. Little Sri Lanka, today, can be justifiably proud of being the leading exporter in the world with the figures for the year 2002 posting nearly 650 million pounds. It naturally follows that, as a result, Colombo is the largest tea auction centre in the world.
Our tea industry can therefore be compared to a goldmine. But diversifying in a manner that is worthy of mention is the second oldest company in Sri Lanka, Mackwoods Ltd (founded in 1841 by Captain William Mackwood.) N.S.O. Mendis, a visionary and a renowned entrepreneur in his time, acquired Mackwoods in 1956, and the Chairperson today is his daughter, Sriyani Nonis. Mackwoods and Ceylon tea have a partnership that dates back to almost the inception of tea in Ceylon.




Most Respected Entities in Sri Lanka - The Top 100




A defining strength of Mackwoods lies in its 167-year-old heritage - which reflects stability, integrity and resilience in the face of adversity - underpinned by a consistent strategy of selective diversification within our areas of expertise; our continues drive towards expansion of international trade; and pursuit of value creation and innovation-led growth, therby ensuring our long-term sustainability.


The Tea & Coffee Journal - by Larry Luxner - May 2009

  "Sri Lanka's Mackwoods Builds on its Reputation as Tea Pioneer"

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — With annual sales of $60 million, Mackwoods Ltd. makes everything from medical equipment to mango juice, and has interests in a variety of business sectors ranging from software development to swanky beach hotels.

But tea is what made Mackwoods famous. Established in 1841 by William Mackwood, this privately owned empire ranks as the second-oldest company in Sri Lanka.

"Mackwoods is one of the pioneers of the tea industry," said Mackwoods' 43-year-old chairman, Chris Nonis. Like many other members of Sri Lanka's business elite, Nonis is descended from Portuguese Catholics.

"My grandfather, N.S.O. Mendis, bought the company from the Mackwood family in 1956," he told The Tea & Coffee Trade Journal during an interview in Colombo. "He was the first Sri Lankan to make a successful takeover bid in the City of London. Since then, Mackwoods has remained in our family."

Nonis said that his mother, Sriyani Nonis, "was the only female in Sri Lanka to head a plantation company." When she died in 2005, Nonis — who had spent 28 years in England — returned to take over leadership of Mackwoods.

Some 20 companies currently fall under the Mackwoods umbrella, which consists of five sectors: healthcare (pharmaceuticals, medical and scientific equipment); agribusiness (tea, rubber and oil palm); import/export (industrial chemicals, essential oils, organic food products and fibers); IT and computer software, and finally leisure tourism.



The Daily Mirror - 25 June 2010

Mackwoods Golf Championship from today

An exciting weekend of golf is set to get underway at the picturesque Victoria Golf and Country Club, Digana Kandy commencing today, when the ladies are billed to feature in competitive golf for the Mackwoods Challenge Trophy.

This is a strokeplay golf championship open to all amateur lady golfers who are members of a recognized golf club and have certified LGU, USGA or club handicap recognition.

The trophy will be awarded to the player with the lowest aggregate gross score over 54 holes. Jacky Diaz was the winner last year and Suwaneetha Selvaratnam was the runner-up.

The Championship was inaugurated in 1974 and has since been sponsored by Mackwoods Limited over the years in memory of its first Sri Lankan Chairman N.S.O Mendis. The tradition has been followed by his daughter the late Sriyani Nonis and grandchildren. Presently, Dr Chris Nonis, Chairman and Nirmalee Samaratunge, the Co-Chairman and Joint Managing Director continue to support the Sri Lanka Golf Union with their long standing sponsorship of the event. The Mackwoods Stoke Play Golf Championship is one of the most prestigious tournaments in the ladies golfing calendar and much participation and enthusiasm is rest assured. The event is organized by the Sri Lanka Golf Union, the governing body for golf in Sri Lanka.

The players will also vie for the Nuwara Eliya Golf Challenge Cup which would run concurrently and will be awarded to the player with the lowest aggregate nett score over 54 holes. Also the bronze cup for the high handicap golfers and many daily prizes will be on offer. (TBR)



The Island - 18 June 2010

Mackwoods Ladies Strokeplay Golf Championship from June 25

Victoria Golf and Country Club in Kandy is to host the Mackwoods Ladies Strokeplay Golf Championship 2010 from June 25 to 27. The Mackwoods Ladies Golf Championship is open to all Amateur Lady Golfers who are members of any recognised Golf Club and have certified LGU, USGA or Club Handicap.

The Mackwood Challenge Trophy will be awarded to the player returning the lowest aggregate gross score over 54 holes. The winner last year was Ms. Jacky Dias and the runner-up was Mrs. Suwaneetha Selvaratnam.

The tournament was inaugurated in 1974 and since then it was sponsored by Mackwoods Limited over the years in memory of the first Sri Lankan Chairman of the company, Mr. N. S. O. Mendis.

Since then the tradition has been followed by his daughter late Mrs. Sriyani Nonis and the grandchildren. Presently, Dr. Chris Nonis, Chairman and Mrs. Nirmalee Samaratunge, Co-Chairman and Jt. Managing Director, continue to support the Sri Lanka Golf Union in their long-standing sponsorship of this event.



TRAVEL Sri Lanka Magazine

Tea … It’s a breeze

At last a place has opened in Colombo dedicated to serving a decent cup of tea.

Like a breath of fresh air to chase away the fumes of the city, Tea Breeze has opened in Colombo with the noble objective of making a good cup of tea a reality for residents and visitors.

In the capital of Sri Lanka, the country that gave the world “Pure Ceylon Tea,” the opening of a café serving tea might not sound newsworthy. But it is.

I remember in the 1980s walking into a medium-range café (now closed down) on the Galle Road and asking for a cup of tea. I was told, by the manager who was sitting at his desk with a mug of tea in front of him, that the establishment did not serve tea. That was true, and has been true for decades – there has been nowhere in Colombo (apart from some enterprising hotels) to have a good “cuppa.”

The local cafes and corner stalls serve hot water in which has been marinated a few tea bags, or water that has been poured through a sieve of tea and had heaps of sugar added to it. There are also those wonderful wayside boutiques where a lad juggles with containers and pours a frothy stream of a milky concoction, from a great height from one container down into another. An interesting beverage, but not tea, as we know it.

Tea Breeze however, provides a unique tea experience to discerning clientele, and is an eminently suitable platform for Ceylon Tea. It is part of the Mackwoods Group, one of Sri Lanka’s oldest conglomerates, founded in 1841. (A portrait of the original Mackwood appears on the side of the tea pots in the café.) Mackwoods also runs the Labookellie Tea Centre on the road between Kandy and Nuwara-Eliya, the most popular of hill country tea outlets. For years it was the only place where visitors could buy freshly packed, single estate tea, whilst also enjoying a tour of the tea factory on Mackwoods Labookellie tea estate.

Mackwoods, of course, was also the pioneer of fine tea tasting and opera events in Europe, and had the distinction of carrying the Queen’s Golden Jubilee logo, and presenting their Connoisseur’s Ceylon tea “The Queen’s Golden Jubilee Blend”, created to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the Queen, at Buckingham Palace.

With the opening of Tea Breeze it is at last possible actually to drink and enjoy single estate teas (there are 33 varieties available) in the centre of Colombo in a refined setting. The entrance is through the Arkipelego store on the right, heading inland up Dharmapala Mawatha from the Liberty Plaza roundabout. Tea Breeze is perched on the first floor, with a wide window view of the traffic below.

The flooring is parquet, the tea bar of handmade walnut burl, the ambience genteel and contemporary, the service smooth, and the tea – well, its however you want it like Orange Pekoe (OP) without sugar and the couple of cups I had there reassured me that good tea is alive and well. It is served in individual tea pots and comes with complimentary tiny tea cookies.

Tea Breeze is open everyday from 9:00 to 19:00hrs and features some amazing variations on tea. “Tea Tantalizers” are drinks of flavoured tea, cream and ice cream, all in delectable flavours. A big hit is the English High Tea of scones, jams, butter, a slice of gorgeous gateau or cheese cake (fasinationgly made from different grades of Mackwoods teas), and a pot of single estate tea.

The café seems set to become a popular haunt (already diplomats from several High Commissions and Embassies have become regulars). International daily newspapers and poetry books by budding Sri Lankan poets are provided for those with time to relax, and there are freshly made English sandwiched (pepper beef, asparagus, chicken pate, and even smoked salmon canapés) for the puckish. And a variety of single estate, garden fresh, Mackwoods tea can be bought to take home.



Cercle Diplomatique et Economique International, Austria

 Mackwoods Fine Tea

Ceylon, as such, ceased to exist in 1972, when the name of the country as changed to Sri Lanka, but ”Ceylon” tea persists as the embodiment of one of the worlds’s finest beverages, and indelibly associated in international circles with Ceylon tea is the name Mackwoods. Cercle Diplomatique et Economique International looked into the reason for this long-standing link and found the answer in a interview with Mrs. Sriyani Nonis, Chairperson of Mackwoods.

Founded in 1841 by the British "Merchant & Agent" Captain Wiliam Mackwood, Mackwoods Limited has the distinction of being the second oldest company in Sri Lanka. Surviving two world wars, the Company remained with the Mackwoods family until 1956 when its ownershp passed into the hands of the visionary Sri Lankan entrepreneur N.S.O. Mendis. Under his inspired leadership the company expanded into many areas, and today, Mackwoods is a conglomerate of several companies engaged in such diverse activities as Agribusiness and Plantations, Healthcare, Manufacturing, information Technology and Import / Export Trading. The present Chairperson of the company is the daughter of N.S.O.Mendis, Mrs. Sriyani Nonis, and in the third generation her daughter Mrs. Nirmali Samaratunga, and her son, Dr. Chris Nonis, are on the Board of Directors.




Mackwoods Tea at Buckingham Palace

The name Mackwoods is synonymous with high quality Ceylon tea, as the company has been associated with tea almost since its inception.

Jonathan Swift said that “Tea is water bewitched.” This describes the refreshing flavour of Mackwoods Labookellie tea centre, surrounded by the lush green tea plantations of Labookellie estate enroute to Nuwara-Eliya. This is a warm and welcome sight for many a traveler, both local and international. Over the years, the Mackwoods Labookellie tea centre has refreshed and rejuvenated the young and old from across the globe, with its freshly brewed ‘cuppa’ and its mouth-watering chocolate cake.

Visitors are given an invaluable insight in to the process by which the ‘two leaves and bud’ so deftly plucked by nimble tea pluckers are transformed into the aromatic tea which is served at this center.

The Mackwoods Tea marquee at the world tea Party, hosted by the Horniman Museum in London famed for its association with the tea trade. Provided the opportunity for many to enjoy the special flavour of Mackwoods tea marquee offered visitors a delectable rang of Ceylon teas including flavoured teas such as chamomile and mint. Different grades of single estate Labookellie tea to satisfy all plates. As well as special blends such as the unique Mackwoods 160th anniversary blend for the discerning tea connoisseur.

Mackwoods directors were accorded the unique privilege of presenting the Mackwoods ‘Queens Golden Jubilee Blend’ at Buckingham Palace, London. This connoisseur’s blend, which carried the official Golden Jubilee Logo, was specially created to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Throughout its philosophy of commitment to quality. Mackwoods established in 1841. Continues this tradition of excellence in Ceylon tea internationally.



The New York TimesThe New York Times - Joshua Kurlantzick

  The Rebirth of Sri Lanka

When I open the window, the smell of tea wafts into the car, and I spy women plucking leaves into baskets on their backs. We stop at the Labookellie tea estate, where a guide, Christa, lets me watch the entire process, from plucking to drying to fermenting to tasting.

I ask if America contributed to the tea industry. "They invented the tea bag," she says, wrinkling her nose. "No taste. But it does go quickly."



Lonely Planet - Official Itinerary Information

Destination: Sri Lanka

I...Continue north to Kandy, stopping off for a tour and tea tasting at Labookellie Tea Factory and, if you haven't had enough waterfall action, Ramboda Falls . Kandy , Sri Lanka's main cultural centre, will delight you with its mild climate, colonial architecture, frequent festivals and sumptuous Buddhist temples. From Kandy it's a relatively easy ride back to Colombo.



Daily Mirror

“Upali Wijewardene Kandos Cup” to open horse racing season

The ‘Upali Wijewardene Kandos Cup” sponsored by Ceylon Chocolates Ltd is the main event for the April 1 where a number of horses have entered. The “Mackwoods Labookellie Cup” sponsored by Mackwoods Plantations Pvt Ltd., has also been drawn up for this day. The chief guest on this day will be Hon Sarath Ekanayake, Chief Minister Central Province and his gracious lady and several other Ministers will also be present.