The Tea Detective
Uncovering and Exploring the Facts About Tea
Zealongs - A New Breed of Oolong Teas
From New Zealand
While traveling to New Zealand in 1989, Tsu Chen, owner of a Taiwanese con-
struction company at the time, was awed by the country's beauty and its peo-
ple's generosity of spirit and heart.  Seven years later, in 1996, Chen moved his
family and business to New Zealand, emigrating to the North Island, ready to
begin anew, making certain he brought with him a plentiful supply of
Taiwanese
oolong teas.
A few years later Tsu had one of those rare "aha
moments," while he and his son Vincent chatted
with a neighbor living near Hamilton, about garden-
ing and how well his ornamental Camellias were
doing.  The neighbor commented about how easy it
was to grow the healthy, sturdy
japonicas (orna-
mental tea plant).

In that moment Tsu knew he'd stumbled upon
something important, immediately realizing the po-
tential for growing tea in his own back garden.  Vin-
cent said his father "determined there and then to
make the vision come
true."  What Chen did-
n't know was that he
would face years of
bureaucratic red tape
and dozens of hurdles along the way to fully realize his dream of
producing quality
oolong teas in New Zealand.

                                         Chen found it easy to buy land and had in fact already purchased a
                                         parcel he'd originally planned for building projects.  In the late
                                         1990s, he decided instead to use it to plant tea.  He decided on the
                                         Chin Shin varietal of tea plant which produced good oolongs, and
                                         contacted
Taiwan tea growers to supply the right materials for
                                         planting.

                                         The first major hurdle presented itself with New Zealand's Depart-
                                         ment of Forestry's strict importation controls of soil and rooted
                                         plants.  Eventually Chen was allowed to fly in not rooted plants but
                                         rather leaf cuttings packed in wet paper. Once the cuttings arrived
the next problem was the discovery of insects among the tea plant's leaves, which needed to be
sprayed.

Next the Ministry contacted Chen with the
news that a particular type of compost must
be used and rather than turn the cuttings
over to him, they would keep the tea plants
and oversee the cultivation in government
controlled quarantine conditions.

Ten months later Chen was allowed to take
his tea plants home, but only 130 of the
original 1,500 cuttings had survived.  He
took the few remaining survivors and plant-
ed them in the proposed back garden and
carefully tended them, but they failed to
thrive.

In 2000 Chen and family moved to a property that had been a dairy farm, taking his lagging tea
plants with him.  This time the struggling plants began to grow and flourish, and Tsu and his son
Vincent planted 2,000 more cuttings, but while some thrived, others did not.  He decided it was
time to bring in professional help.  He hired Logan Chen, an experienced tea farmer from
Taiwan, and gradually things began to improve.

                                                
Making Taiwanese oolongs is slow hard work, and even with
                                                machines it can take up to 36 hours to complete a batch of tea.
                                                The Chen's wisely imported from Taiwan a panner, roller, dryer,
                                                and a machine used to tighten the bags for the bruising step. All
                                                the new machinery was checked and approved by the Depart-
                                                ment of Forestry and installed in the new factory Chen built in
                                                2004.

With everything now ready the Chen's produced their
first batch of oolong tea and was sorely disappointed.
It was bland and tasteless with none of the sweet
floral aromas that oolongs are famous for.  So it was
back to the drawing board, so to speak.  Another Taiwanese tea master with 22 years
experience was hired to advise and assist Logan Chen, who believed they just needed to
experiment with each factor of growing and manufacturing to see what worked best.

                                                Thirteen years after starting, in December 2009, the very first
                                                Zealongs were released to the public. Tasted and judged by
                                                respected tea masters, Tsu's dream finally came true, with a
                                                quality oolong he could be proud of.  The Zealong teas have a
                                                soft floral aroma and delicate color, a brisk flavor and sweet
                                                aftertaste.  From the first sip you'll know you're drinking a fine,
                                                premium quality oolong.

The factory has HACCP ISO22000 certification (the only tea company in the world with this
certification), which is the world's highest safety standard.  Zealong teas are also certified
organic by the Swiss monitoring service SGS.  So when they say their teas are the purest, they
can back it up, and you can buy them with confidence.

Zealong teas are sold in a 50 gram vacuum pack, single style, not
blended.  A special coding system assures each package of tea is
traceable to the specific block of the plantation it was plucked from,
and the time of year.
Today, along with the Rototuna Plantation near Hamilton, in the North Island's Waikato
region, with more than one million tea plants that produce quality Zealong teas from
three harvests per year, is a 900 meter factory, a plant nursery, a cafe, a lodge and lake,
a visitor's center, and a Chinese tea house.

Nearby in Gordontown the second tea garden, the new 48 hectare, Zealong Tea Estate, is well underway, with
approximately ten hectares already at full production.  Open year round the Zealong Tea Estate is also home to the
Zealong Visitor Center, a pavilion, and the Camellia tea house where you'll find exquisite views and can enjoy a light
lunch and even take part in a traditional
Chinese tea ceremony (with Zealong teas, of course), as well as stroll
through lovely peaceful and tranquil gardens--all available at New Zealand's only tea farm.  
Enjoy.
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