495 Gordonton Road
(07) 853 3018
Nestling in the lush Waikato countryside, five minutes north of Hamilton, the Zealong Tea House was purpose-built in 2011 and overlooks New Zealand’s only tea plantation.
Taiwanese immigrants Tzu Chen and his son Vincent, founders of Zealong, first dreamed of cultivating tea in New Zealand when they noticed how well camellias grew here. Knowing that the camellia was a relative of the tea plant, they were inspired to import tea plant cuttings nearly 20 years ago. The first commercial tea was launched in 2009.
The Zealong brand name was carefully chosen to reflect its unique source (New Zealand) and the type of tea (oolong). It also reflects the unique qualities of Zealong tea that differentiate it from traditional Asian grown teas.
At the Zealong Tea House one can indulge in high tea or a light lunch and taste a cup of fine Zealong tea — there are four variants — and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the tea garden.
I particularly enjoyed the Aromatic Zealong with a small platter of Takoyaki ($14) – six delicious octopus dumplings served with wakame salad, Kewpie (mayo), sweet soy and bonito flakes, artistically presented.
Other temptations include: Zealong Chicken Cigars ($15) — Zealong black tea poached free-range chicken together with cabbage, chilli and carrot in a ‘cigar’, complemented with a tangy aioli; Ravioli ($28) a medley of shiitake, Swiss and Portobello mushrooms with roast garlic soup and toasted herb cream.
Next time I’ll check out the Classic Tiffin ($37) — a selection of four different dainty sandwiches, scones and fruit preserves — all served with bottomless cups of terrific tea.
Tea and garden tours are available most days.
10am-5pm Tuesday to Sunday