In 1878, tea seeds from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh were planted in Malawi. Commercial tea cultivation in Malawi (earlier Nysaland) is the beginning of African tea industry. Mlanje and Thyolo are the two main districts where tea is grown. The tea areas lie between 160 and 120 S latitudes. Tea is planted between 200 and 1000 m above sea level.
Early planting was done with China hybrids, however, Assam types were introduced at a later stage. Now clones and polyclonal seeds are being used for planting. The tea areas of Malawi do not experience complete winter dormancy but the crop harvested drops drastically during cold and dry months.
In Malawi, large commercial estates accounts for major portion of the tea areas. However, small scale cultivation is also taking place. The smallholder sector represents almost 13 percent of the total tea area and there are about 4,900 smallholdings having an average holding size of 0.48 ha. Initially, the tea leaf produced by the smallholders was sold to neighboring estate factories but now smallholders’ factory has been established in Mulanje. Black tea is mainly processed in Malawi. Auctions are held once a week in Blantyre during the season, and only once a fortnight during off season. Much of the country's tea is sold privately.