Zealong is a premium brand of Oolong tea produced in New Zealand that is making waves in the international tea world for its purity (free from pesticides and fertilizers) and crisp, floral taste.
While officially launched in late 2009, it took 13 years of hard work and experiments for Vincent Chen, Director of Zealong, to adapt and perfect the art of producing oolong tea in New Zealand.
Originally from Taiwan, Vincent’s family migrated to New Zealand and set up a property development company in Hamilton city, Waikato. “My father started noticing that there were all these camellia trees, a close relative to tea bushes, growing in Hamilton. We asked a neighbour what they did to make their camellia trees look so healthy and they gave this ‘uh oh, another crazy immigrant’ look. We later learnt that you didn’t have to do anything, these trees just thrive naturally in this pristine environment,” Vincent recalls.
Being a tea-lover, he began growing his own tea bushes as a hobby in vacant company land and felt that setting up an oolong tea plantation had business potential. In the same year, he imported 1,500 seedlings from Taiwan. Unfortunately, only 130 survived after strict NZ quarantine regulations. Undeterred, Vincent planted these in his backyard, and has since grown 1.3 million plants with this humble batch of seedlings, along with bringing in skilled tea workers from Taiwan’s tea-producing regions like Alishan.
While oolong tea is seen as a traditional Chinese drink, Vincent and his team want to make Zealong tea accessible to the growing global tea market. At present, they offer a no-frills section of three oolong teas – Pure, Aromatic and Dark. Their products also cater to the discerning tea drinkers with single source, pesticide-free production that meets the stringent food safety standards of ISO 22000 HACCP certification.
“I believe you can taste the purity when you drink our tea,” says Vincent.
Tasting Notes of Zealong Tea:
Pure: Light-bodied, and vegetal with sweet floral notes.
Aromatic: Hint of fruitiness with a fragrant hyacinth aroma.
Dark: Roasted, nutty notes with a smooth finish
Health Benefits of Oolong Tea*
Decreased cholesterol levels
Increased fat oxidation
Reduction in visceral fat and waist size
Inhibit the growth of human stomach cancer cells
Lower glucose levels
*Findings compiled by AgResearch.
Tips on Drinking Oolong Tea
Use spring water to bring out the sweetness of tea.
Warm the pot or cup with hot water to keep brewing temperature consistent.
Rinse tea leaves once through with hot water; this allows the leaves to expand and release their flavour.
Appreciate the steeped leaves after drinking– good quality oolong tea leaves are rolled tightly, retain their rich colour and feel firm on touch.
Zealong tea can be purchased online at zealong.com. Many thanks to Vincent and Gigi for meeting up with me for this article.
This article was also published in HungryGoWhere.