Brook Bernacchi – tea estate Ngong Ping, and first Western resident on Lantau island
Brook Antony Bernacchi (貝納褀) b. 22nd January 1922 d. 22nd September 1996, was born in London and arrived in Hong Kong in 1945 as advisor to Major General FW Festing. “One of Hong Kong’s early democrats, he was an important moderate political voice in the colony from the 1950s to the 1970s” . (1)
“In 1947 Bernacchi bought 200 acres of land at a former nunnery in Ngong Ping, Lantau Island, and built a tea plantation on 70 acres of it, producing a tea that he sold under the name Lotus Brand.” (1) He had apparently been inspired by the tea estates he visited in Burma during the Second World War.
In the 1940s, he was assigned as the British Queen’s Counselor to HK. In order to create job opportunities for prisoners who were set free, Brook Bernacchi came up with the idea to open [the] Tea Garden, and let them make their own living. (2)
He became, apparently the first Westerner to live on Lantau moving there in 1948.
In 1973, he became a chairman of the New Lantao Bus Company.
Berbacchi died on 22nd September 1996 in Hong Kong.
- Dictionary of Hong Kong Biography, ed M Holdsworth & C Munn, HKU Press, 2012 This wonderful book collects in one volume more than 500 specially commissioned entries on men and women from Hong Kong history including a short biography of Brook Bernacchi by Christine Loh.
- The Secret Garden – Ngong Ping Tea Garden
- Pinterest – the Lotus Brand story
- Wikipedia – Brook Bernacchi
This article was first posted on 30th April 2016.
- Lawyer and fighter for rights Brook Bernacchi dies at 74 SCMP 23rd September 1996
- Chinese herbal tea: history, health and how to make it SCMP 1st September 2018
- Poon choi, milk tea and herbal tea: only three types of local fare on Hong Kong’s cultural heritage list SCMP 15th August 2017
- Brook Bernacchi – Biography
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My Uncle Chuckie Sloan also bought a small village house on Lantau in the 50’s not far from Brook Bernacchi’s house. We used to go to Chuckie’s for holidays and once we were taken to the Brenacchi house where I have a recollection that we were given short rides on a horse he owned.
On a subsequent holiday my uncles dog bit me on the face very badly, There was no communication (or roads) back then except for a radio at the Bernacchi house. I was carried by sedan chair with my mother and uncle Chuckie to Tsai Po harbour. It took about four hours in the dark. Mr Bernacchi’s motor launch was there and it took us to Castle Peak where an ambulance from Kowloon hospital was waiting at the pier all organised by the use of the radio. I had lost quite a bit bit of blood and was sick in the ambulance. Arriving at the hospital I had eight stitches put in the wound on my face. We then had to get a Wallah Wallah over to Wanchai (the ferry had stopped running ) where Chuckie lived in an apartment above Gilman Motors where he worked as workshop manager, getting there at about two a.m.
I learned several years later that I had been scheduled to go back to the hospital to be given the anti rabies injections but somehow that had been forgotten about and I was never given them.
However I am eternally grateful to the generosity of Brook Bernacchi and I’m quite sure that I may not have survived that bite without being given the help and support that he did. Sadly I have only the vaguest recollection of meeting him( I was only about seven or eight at the time) and feel sorry that I never had an opportunity to express my gratitude for what he did for me. I have always held him in the highest esteem and had greatest respect for him.
I am doing some research on the western communities in Ngong Ping in the 1950s. May I find out more about your previous experience in your uncle’s house?
Feel free to contact me by email.
Today, young hikers who walk Bernacchi Hiking Trail may not know this story. Thank you for posting it.
I am one of the younger generation who happened to reside in Ngong Ping for two years. Currently Ngong Ping has very few locals living there. Po Lin Monastery is thriving but other Ngong Ping places are not.
As I read about the surrounding area, I was really surprised to learn the fact that Ngong Ping has such special connection with the Hong Kong Island and such a historical figure like Mr. Bernacchi. The history really showcased how Westerners and Chinese can live and develop wonderful treasures inHong Kong.
To add on the information, past students of the Hong Kong Sea School in Stanley has fond memory of their founding principal Mr Bernachi. This is a footage of one of their organized trip to Bernachi’s Ngong Ping house.
It’s a beautiful history, I hope to learn more of it.