October 27, 2016
Zealong tea happened almost by accident. It was 1996, and Zealong's founder, Vincent, saw a camelia tree flowering in his neighbors backyard. It was perfect, and it was flourishing in the Central North Island of New Zealand climate. Vincent knew that tea plants are a variety of camelia, and it was in that chance moment that he dreamed of growing tea in New Zealand. That was the start of Zealong.
The next step was finding the best tea plants in the world. His research led him to Asia where he personally found and collected 1,500 perfect camelia cuttings and shipped them back to New Zealand. That's where he met with his first obstacle: New Zealand Biosecurity. New Zealand Biosecurity is one of the strictest in the world and those 1,500 cuttings spent 10 months in quarantine. After 10 months only 130 plants survived. As hard as it was, this turned out to be a blessing. Those 130 plants were the strongest plants - the survivors from which to grow the perfect tea. In New Zealand's rich soil, the ideal growing climate, and with a labor of love, the 130 plants thrived. From them Zealong have propagated 1.2 million plants.
In 2009 Zealong finally opened its gates to the public. It was groundbreaking. No one had ever grown tea in New Zealand before. What's even more remarkable was everything was done organically. In New Zealand you can do that. The soil is rich and the air and water are clean. Camelia plants absorb everything from their environment so the unspoiled clean air and soil in the pristine New Zealand environment is where the magic of this tea begins. Out of respect for both the tea and the pure New Zealand environment, Zealong adopt an environmental approach on the estate, applying natural farm techniques and promoting biodiversity. Zealong meets the highest organic certification standards every step of the way.
"We don't spray the land.
We don't add anything artificial to the soil."
Zealong harvests three times a year for 20 days at a time. Just the three top leaves are hand picked as these are the most flavorsome, the softest and the most robust. Then these most perfect, organically grown tea leaves are turned into tea flavors. Withering is the process by which the moisture content is reduced in the leaves. In typical commercial tea plantations the leaves are laid outside beside roads and in paddocks, often open to animals and the elements. At Zealong, the withering happens indoors in their state of the art tea house. For over 36 hours the tea is dried, roasted, rolled, roasted some more. Zealong's tea masters understand tea and combine their knowledge of the traditional ancient art of tea making with modern day science and safety standards.
Zealong has recently launched a pyramid tea bag range. The premium pyramid tea bags are packed with full leaves making them infusable multiple times, but what's really special about Zealong tea bags is that they are made from plant starch. Unlike most other pyramid tea bags which are made of nylon, Zealong teabags are free of synthetic polymer fibers, plastic petroleum, bleaches and glues. Zealong's tea bags are environmentally friendly and 100% safe to use.
"Everything from the picking to packing is organic. This is rare. And we know why.
It's a slow and costly way to do things but we think it's the right way to do things."
Zealong is one of the very few tea companies to hold ISO22000 HACCP certification - the world's highest food safety standards. With every pack of tea Zealong can tell you the paddock it was grown in, the row it was plucked from, who picked it, on what day and when it was roasted. When you drink Zealong tea you can drink with complete peace of mind. Zealong are certified and audited by Swiss Consultancy SGS, the world's leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. Perfection is what Zealong striving for. From planting through to packaging. It's true that New Zealand's food and safety standards are very high but at Zealong the standards are even higher.
The Zealong Organic Tea range, now available in the USA includes 3 flavors of the new pyramid tea bags (green, black and oolong); 5 loose leaf tea flavors (green, black and three tightly rolled oolongs: pure, aromatic and dark); and for those who would like to try them all: a sampler pack with the 5 loose leaf flavors.
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