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The Waddington Brothers: A Tea Connection

Those familiar with TeaSource may know that my great grandfather started working in the Ceylon tea industry in the 1870’s carving tea plantations out of the wilderness. His name was Augustus Waddington.

But the Waddington family tree and connections with tea doesn’t end there. Augustus’ little brother, Henry Waddington, was across the Palk strait from Ceylon in southern India growing tea in the Nilgiri Mountains.

This map shows Sri Lanka, India, and the Palk Strait (map source).

I don’t know as much about Henry Waddington as I do Augustus, but apparently he was a force in the South Indian tea industry. The pre-eminent reference book on tea is William Ukers, All About Tea, a 568 page tome first published in 1934.

All About Tea is still used by tea professionals throughout the world today. 

Henry Waddington first made my acquaintance more than 25 years ago when I was working my way through All About Tea. At the time I wasn’t even sure he was a relation. The name “Waddington” is not a unique name in the British Empire. About 18 years ago, I was able to confirm Augustus and Henry were brothers, and that Henry was my great, great uncle. 

And as I said, William Ukers apparently knew of him. Below is the excerpt from page 143 in All About Tea.

  

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

Out of the blue about 8 years ago, 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. 

So, this is the last piece of the Waddington--tea industry--Asia roots-- puzzle. At least I think it is the last piece. 

But if anyone runs across another Waddington connection in the tea industry (my daughter working at Starbucks does not count), PLEASE LET ME KNOW.

Photo in the Coimbatore Club book. It is not unlikely Henry Waddington is in this picture.

To try a great tea from Nilgiri, check out the Organic Korakundah Estate, BOP.

Bill Waddington

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