Friday, April 22, 2011
While in Hamilton last weekend we visited Zealong, New Zealand's only tea plantation. When I happened to read about it somewhere a few weeks ago, I decided we had to go. And it wasn't too hard to convince people to accompany me.
It's oolong tea and there are three varieties: pure, aromatic, and dark. You can brew the same tea leaves up to seven or eight times and they're still good. I tried all three types and they were all nice, but I think I preferred the aromatic and the pure. Both had a weirdly milky taste and when we commented on it it was explained that it's from the oil from the leaves of the plants.
The story goes that the founder of Zealong noticed how well a camellia bush grew in his garden in Hamilton and thought how similar it was to an oolong tea plant. So he and his son imported 1500 oolong tea seedlings, of which only 130 survived after quarantine. From those 130 they have grown thousands of plants which spread over 50 hectares.
It wasn't the greatest weather when we went out on our little trip, but we still got to have a wander around, see the conference room they're building, and admire the lake and very orderly rows of plants. There's a deck for sunny days with a lovely view. It was all very quiet and nice with helpful staff.
And of course no weekend, or tea, would be complete without some sweet things.