A 6-year old John Archibald ‘Archie’ Russell arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaya with his father and 4 brothers. Following the death of his mother in a tragic carriage accident, he was sent back to England for his early years of education. Upon returning to Malaya, Archie began a career in the mining industry. He also became fluent in 5 Chinese dialects and Bahasa Melayu and made a name for himself building a railway station and starting businesses in many areas including a rubber company and colliery.
It’s the Great Depression and the world has spun into recession. Archie (previously invested in rubber, mining and construction) decided to start planting tea at Cameron Highlands together with A.B. Milne, a veteran planter from Sri Lanka. Virgin jungle terrain was transformed into the first highlands tea garden in the country, now known as BOH Plantations. The name BOH was derived from “Bohea”, the hills in Fujian Province also called Wuyi Hills, where tea was originally thought to have been discovered by the Emperor Shennong. Bohea was also the name of a premium tea grade in the early China tea trade. Boh means precious happiness in mandarin.
Archie died of tuberculosis in Singapore at the early age of 50. His widow, Kathleen insisted BOH be retained despite financial difficulties. During World War II, the estate was occupied by the Japanese and largely abandoned. After the war, Archie’s son Tristan joined the business at the age of 21. During the turbulent Malayan Emergency, Cameron Highlands was prime ‘ambush territory’ for communist terrorists. Troops were stationed around the plantations to try and help protect the estate and the workers, while Tristan had to sleep with a pistol under his pillow for security!
Following independence, many British planters left, however, BOH’s founding family remained committed to staying in Malaysia, optimistic about what the future would bring, and themselves becoming truly Malaysian.
Under Tristan’s stewardship, BOH grew to 4 plantations, including the acquisition of Sungei Palas, an estate formerly owned by Danish residents who had been able to continue operate as Denmark had not been at war with Japan.
Tristan was appointed the chairman of BOH and began modernising the art of manufacturing tea by investing in innovative techniques and infrastructure, to remain at the forefront of tea-making technology. According to Tristan, ‘…where once 27 people were needed for the rolling room, today only 1 minds the machines.’
Tristan was also responsible for bringing Mr. BOH to life, one of the 1st televised company mascots in Asia. BOH was an undisputed success domestically and is still referenced today.
The phrase ‘BOH Ada Ummph!’ was introduced and became an instant national hit in Malaysia. Aptly describing the quality and robustness of BOH tea, the word ‘Ummph!’ is still used today to describe the unique ‘kick’ in flavour.
An airstrip with an elevation of about 1600m was constructed in 1994, to enable the application of fertiliser by air rather than hand, raising productivity levels and reducing labour-intensive processes for the workers.
BOH’s CSR programmes grew as the business actively participated in animal and environmental initiatives, such as ‘New Home for Elephants’ and ‘New Home for Orang Utans’, in Sabah, East Malaysia. Together with virtual publishing house Kakiseni, the BOH Cameronian Arts Awards was also launched (also known as The Cammies) in 2002, an annual event that honours outstanding contributions in dance, theatre and music.
Caroline, daughter of Tristan is appointed CEO in the year 2003.
Meanwhile, BOH continues to unveil new teas to cater to the increasing demand for variety by tea drinkers. The Teh Tarik Kurang Manis, Sencha Green Tea and Green Tea Latte were introduced.
BOH’s decision to adopt the use of stevia leaf extract in our product range is in line with the brand’s wellness approach to deliver healthier beverage options for our consumers. Naturally sweet with zero calories, the pure extract is safe for consumption by adults and children.
Biodegradable Pyramid Teabags were also developed and introduced with the Herb & Fruit Spa Infusion Teas and BOH Garden Teas.
True to maintaining a high standard of food safety and quality, BOH has been awarded many accolades over the years, such as the ISO 22000 certification for Food Safety Management in 2006, the Malaysian Farm Certification Scheme for Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) in 2011, the Certificate of MeSTI (Makanan Selamat Tanggungjawab Industri) from the Ministry of Health in 2013, the Halal certificate by JAKIM and the FSSC (Food Safety System Certification) Certificate in 2017, which solidifies BOH as a trusted consumer brand in Malaysia.
The Company has also received numerous consumer awards such as the Putra Brand Awards, Readers Digest Trusted Brands, the Superbrand Excellence Trophy Award, the Tourism Minister’s Special Award, with the most recent honour being the Patron of the Arts Award at the Malaysia Canada Business Council (MCBC) Business Excellence Awards.