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TeaSource

The Birthplace of TeaSource

You could say TeaSource was born in Usk, Monmouthshire, Wales (United Kingdom) on November 15, 1840, when Augustus Waddington was born. He was the first Waddington to go into the tea business.  

Augustus was not the first born male child (look up primogeniture on Wikipedia), so he was destined to leave Wales in search of fame and fortune. He arrived in Ceylon, now called Sri Lanka, in 1868 to work in the coffee industry. The following year the Great Coffee Blight of 1869 struck Ceylon and in short order wiped out the entire coffee industry. So all those ravaged coffee plantations were converted into tea estates. 

Augustus stayed in Ceylon for 10 years working at more than eight of the early tea estates.

Flash forward; I founded TeaSource in my spare bedroom in 1997. In late 1998 (more than a year after I founded TeaSource) I ran across Augustus’ unpublished memoir in a box of old family memorabilia, which no one in my family knew about.

The unpublished memoir of my great grandfather.

Buried in this memoir were about 15 pages describing my great grandfather’s time in Ceylon. Including some cryptic references messages to his brother Henry, who was in southern India. 

Map of Ceylon and south India, where 2 brothers were working in the tea industry in the late 1870’s.

During this same time, i.e. the beginnings of TeaSource, I immersed myself in tea knowledge. I was able to purchase a copy of the original reference work on tea, All About Tea, by William Ukers, a 1,127 page two volume book on tea, published in 1935 and out of print for decades.

The original reference book on tea.

The inside front cover of Ukers, All About Tea.

Published 1935, and still on the book shelf of most tea professionals. And as I was working my way thru this tome, on page 143 I ran across this:

Apparently Henry stayed in the tea industry for most of his life (unlike Augustus who left Ceylon and moved to Kansas after 10 years).

Then a few years laterout of the blue, an employee came to me and said, “Bill, there are a couple of customers who would like to talk to you.” Being a good Minnesotan, I assumed I had done something wrong and they were there to complain.

Instead, they turned out to be regular customers who greeted me with smiles and handshakes and compliments about TeaSource. They were the ultimate Minnesota Snow Birds - spending summers in Minnesota (her birthplace) and winters in southern India, the Nilgiris (his birthplace). On their most recent stay in India in the city of Coimbatore (the center of the south Indian tea trade for the last 100 years), they had dinner at the Coimbatore Planter’s Club.

Above, the official history of the Coimbatore Club book.

(I have to digress here for a moment: when the British established tea plantations anywhere in the world, they would very quickly also establish “Planter’s Clubs” where the British owners and managers of the plantations could go to relax, drink, race, gamble, socialize, scandalize etc. Think Downton Abbey with a dash of Mar-a-Largo thrown in.)

These TeaSource customers, while walking down the hallway lined with all the historical information about the Coimbatore Club, ran across plaques showing all the past presidents of the Coimbatore Club going back to 1910. Lo and behold, there was H. Waddington, President from Sept. 1920 thru June 1921. They took pictures of the plaque to bring back and share with me.

Mr. H. Waddington, Sep 1920 – Jun 1921

Photo in the Coimbatore Club book. It is likely Henry Waddington is in this picture.

So after an 80 year break, the Waddington family returned to the tea business: from my spare bedroom in 1997 to the first retail store in 1998.

And we keep rolling forward today. 

Bill Waddington

Tea Merchant

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