Day 16 on the Road
Tea Tour and Tea Tasting at Zealong Tea Estate
It’s day 16 of New Zealand’s BIGGEST Gap Year and today we are tasting tea at New Zealand’s only tea plantation, Zealong! It’s the Zealong Tea Estate in Hamilton.
This morning, we need to settle our stomachs. And the best way to do that is by having tea. Today, we are going to Zealong. So Zealong Tea Estate is actually the only tea plantation and factory in New Zealand, which is quite cool.
We get there just in time for the morning tour. To tell us how the tea is made, we are walking through a garden with some sculptures which help depict how tea is make traditionally back in Asia compared to how it’s now made in this tea plantation in New Zealand to give it that organic flavour and taste and they pride themselves on this tea being 100% pure New Zealand. It’s the purest tea in the world.
So the story goes that the guy who started Zealong, which his name is Mr Chan, was walking around New Zealand and he walked around and saw some camellias. He was really surprised that camellia grow in New Zealand because it’s something which is usually specific to Taiwan. Tea are a type of Camellia. So he though: “Ok, tea is a type of camellia, it seems easy to do, I’m going to get come camellia trees and I’m going to make some tea here in New Zealand. And then that’s going to be awesome.” You get 15,000 plants. Put them in customs. And New Zealand customs are pretty tough so he has to leave them for like two months or something like that. Almost all of them die and he is left with 70 plants. Now, those plants remaining are actually the strongest because they survived the tough customs process so it’s perfect for him. He’s getting the strongest plants and you know, reproduce them and grow slowly and plant them in the Waikato because there is a lot of humidity and sun. And now he has like over one and half million and soon is going to have two million plants. And he’s making the best tea in the country – some of the most recognised tea in the world. So yeah, New Zealand is an unusual place to make tea. It’s not high up in the mountains as tea is made in Asia.
We reach the tea house. At the back of the tea house is a ceramic wooden table with some stools to sit on. It’s quite a fancy old table. And we go sit round it with our lovely new friends who are four lovely New Zealand ladies.
Let’s try some tea. The table set up with so many different apparatus. There’s like a saucer with an aroma cup and a tasting cup and several different teapots with filters and then another jug, a timer, a thermometer. It’s all going on on this table. It looks more like a science experiment is about to take place here than tea tasting. Where I’m from, you’re lucky to get a cup let alone a saucer for your tea.
There’s five different flavours from Zealong starting with green tea, then there’s a lighter tea, then there’s another tea which Robin thinks tastes like popcorn and when he makes this opinion known to everyone else around the table, they just all stare back with disbelief. And it’s an awkward moment.
And then the tea flavour goes onto dark tea and then a black tea which is like your strong English breakfast tea as they call it over here.
Along the way, while explaining us this whole process, Germin took the time to make us smell the tea and taste some different teas and how to rest it. To be fair it’s the best tea I ever had in my life. That’s it. You know, it’s so much better than your teabag and things and it makes me feel and know tea a bit more personally. I’ve never actually had proper tea like fancy tea like this before and you can really taste the difference and smell the difference. Part of the tea tasting experience involves pouring your jug of tea into you aroma cup and then you are putting your tea-tasting cup on top of your aroma cup, turning it over, turn it twice to the left, twice to the right , pull the aroma cup away from the tea and the tea will fill up your tasting cup in a magical way. And this is something that takes us a while to perfect actually. We have plenty of chances to try to perfect this tea dance. It’s always quite fun. Just like pour the tea into the aroma cup, then put the tea cup… No, put the tea into the aroma cup, put the tasting cup on top of the aroma cup, flip the cups round, do a dance, do a twist, take the aroma cup off, then twist it back round, and bam! You’ve got yourself some tea.
As well as the tea tasting dance, we also do a tea-pouring competition. The first time we do this, I am winning. I swear to God, I am winning the tea-pouring competition and Robin just nudges me from the side so I end up splashing everywhere. I’ve never witnessed such bud sportsmanship in my life.
Let’s see who can go higher. High tea… I went higher than you though. She just lost, she just lost. Bloody French. We’re going to have to try again. Alright, Laura versus Robin take too.
Germin then goes: “I have a surprise for you!” It wasn’t anything like that, but this is how I choose to remember it. Robin’s like: “I hope it’s cake.” Because he didn’t eat enough last night and he hasn’t just had enough tea. But turns out we’re going to be having high tea. I don’t know if you guys have seen what high tea looks like, but I’ve only heard whispers of high tea. You get the plate of lots of different cakes and stuff and you drink posh tea with it. And that’s exactly what we did! We had small tart. We had tiny little salad bowls. We had tiny little other things. We had macaroons and this chocolate cake and this really cool like segment of orange which was crystallised and sugary. It was quite weird. I’ve never had anything like it. It was really nice.
So long Zealong.
Alright, so today I am getting my Certificate of Fitness, which is basically like a check of the vehicle that I have to do every six months. And it’s a sheet like that that mechanic is going to fill up.
So right now, there is like, three guys checking the campervan for a Certificate of Fitness and they all grab a light, they ask each other questions, they are all looking intrigued. I don’t know what’s happening. So yeah, I am stressed.
As you can probably guess from the fact that our campervan is a pile of shit on wheels that it failed it’s Certificate of Fitness. It was a given really. I don’t even know why we bothered? We should have just rammed that campervan straight into a ditch and called it a day. And we are just like doing a wild goose chase around Hamilton trying to find a place which will fix this campervan in the next week or so, because our Certificate of Fitness is actually going to run out and if that happens, we cannot continue on this road trip until the campervan is fixed and that would be a bit of an issue to say the least.