Satemwa was founded in 1923 by Maclean Kay, who was a rubber planter from Malaya where he worked from 1910 after emigrating from Ayreshire, Scotland. He bought Satemwa (then called Hunterston) from Timunke. It was one of the original 74 certificates of claim that were registered in 1892 with Sir Alfred Sharpe, the then Consul General resident at Chinde on the mouth of the Zambezi.
His first agricultural venture was tobacco which had been grown on the Satemwa Estate since the turn of the century. Some of the original Eucalyptus planted in 1895 remains to this day. In 1924, Maclean Kay planted Satemwa's first Camellia sinensis nurseries and in 1926 established the first tea field on Satemwa. Part of this field is kept as a museum stand to this day and remains one of the companies highest yielding fields!
In 1928 Maclean Kay introduced the first Camellia sinensis var.assamica seed into the Nyasaland tea industry from India. (This seed formed the basis of expansion until the late 1960's). This original tea was planted 'seed at stake' between rows of planted tobacco. Two seasons of tobacco were harvested in order to generate cash flow to sustain the business through the first 2/3 years before any tea leaf could be harvested from the bushes.The first leaf was transported by head load to a neighbouring factory (5kms away!), until the present factory was built in 1937.
During the great depression of 1929-34, Maclean Kay worked for Don & Ross (a Glasgow based company) as a means of survival. He worked on Mianga estate at this time and was able to visit Satemwa every weekend to monitor progress. In 1929 Maclean Kay married Flora Jean Moffat - Baiely and had three children; Alexander Cathcart Kay, Robert Gordon (Chip) Cathcart Kay and Juliet Cathcart Kay, all of whom were born at Namireme house on Mianga. In 1934, they returned to Satemwa to rebuild their home (which had been destroyed by fire in the interim), now Huntingdon House.