Boh Tea, Russell Family’s Legacy
The founder of BOH Plantations, John Archibald ‘Archie’ Russell (JA Russell) is British but the next two generations after him are born here and are Malaysians. The Russell family came to Malaya in the 1890s. JA Russell founded BOH in 1929.
JA Russell had only one son, Tristan Beauchamp Russell, father of Caroline Russell who is the current Executive Chairman of the BOH tea plantations group. Tristan retired in 2019 after leading the company through its biggest expansion over 53 years and handed the company over to Caroline to chair. He was Executive Chairman since 1969 but was working in the company since the 1950s. Caroline was the Chief Executive Officer since 2003 until her recent appointment to the chair of the company.
The year 2019 was also the celebration of the 90th anniversary of BOH Tea. What a wonderful legacy the Russells have created in this country. Many Malaysians grew up knowing the catchy phrase “BOH Ada Ummph!”
BOH comes from the name Bohea, a premium tea grade in the early China trade. BOH also means precious happiness in Mandarin. JA Russell was an entrepreneur who was conversant in 5 Chinese dialects and Bahasa Melayu. Quite an amazing guy!
Caroline Russell was born into the family tea business. She loves Cameron Highlands especially the Tea Centre in the midst of the Sungai Palas estate where one can view the beautiful undulating hills of tea planted everywhere. Several hundred thousand tourists visit the Tea Centre annually (until the lockdown) and there is now a beautiful new wing called “Tristan Terrace” named after her father for visitors to sit and enjoy a cup of BOH’s wide range of specialty teas with delicacies served to one’s delight!
Today, BOH plantations owns four tea gardens; Sungei Palas, Habu, Fairlie and one lowland plantation in Bukit Cheeding, Selangor, covering a total area of 1,200 hectares which now produces over four million kilogrammes of tea, yearly. Some are exported to Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Germany and Denmark but mostly they are consumed locally.
You can read more of the history of BOH tea from www.bohtea.com. Tristan Russell has also helped to publish a book, Making Their Mark on Three Continents, which tells of the Russell family’s history from the early days in Malaya up until the death of J.A. Russell in 1933.
# This article is part of our ongoing research for a future publication on Malaysian LEGACY Businesses by Sparrow Publishing House.
- Boh Tea Plantations Sdn Bhd. About us. History. www.bohtea.com
- In Honour of Tristan Russell. Mei Choo. https://bohtea.com/published-articles/in-honour-of-tristan-russell/
- Astrowani. Dania Zainuddin. 15 August 2018. https://www.astroawani.com/berita-dunia/boh-tea-ninety-years-boil-brewing-ever-more-222499
- ExpatGo. 19 June 2012. Mike Street. The Expat. September 2005. https://www.expatgo.com/my/2012/06/19/a-walk-down-memory-lane-with-tristan-russel/