Since 2009, Zealong Tea has been making its mark as the only commercial tea estate in New Zealand, and one of the first exporters to become a FernMark Licensee since the country of origin Programme began. Now celebrating decades of commitment to producing award-winning premium quality tea, the tea producer has been recognised as part of BBC’s documentary series, One cup, a Thousand Stories.
Zealong was the only southern hemisphere tea producer to take part in the mini-series, with its quality-based approach to making certified organic tea that combines tradition and innovation featured in Episode Five. Available for New Zealanders to view on Sky Go, the series is estimated to have reached an audience of 100 million viewers.
In 1996, Zealong imported 1,500 cuttings from the best tea growing regions in Asia and, since then, has been on an incredible journey – turning the 130 plants that survived quarantine into a 48-hectare organic tea estate in Waikato, now with over 1.2 million Camellia sinensis bushes, making it the largest internationally certified organic tea estate in the world.
When Zealong first started taking its tea to the world, many offshore markets were surprised to learn the product came from New Zealand. However, with the backing of the FernMark and connotations of clean, green Aotearoa New Zealand, Zealong’s tea began making waves in competitive and saturated international markets.
According to Sen Kong, Zealong General Manager, the company’s growth and success comes down to an element of resourcefulness and a can-do attitude.
“A lot of people believe you can’t grow tea in New Zealand, but we said ‘yes we can’, becoming the first to grow oolong tea outside of the northern hemisphere. There is a real sense of Kiwi ingenuity in taking something most people believe is impossible and making it happen.
“It’s an incredible feeling to be here 20 years later, winning international awards for our premium quality tea.”
Zealong exports tea right across the globe through its online website and in-market distributors, with key markets in the US, Europe and Asia.
Taking pride of place on the front of Zealong’s teas, its FernMark accreditation has reinforced its no-compromise approach to quality products since becoming a FernMark Licensee in 2015. As an iconic representation of genuine New Zealand products, Kong says the FernMark is what makes Zealong stand out in the crowd.
“People can mistake New Zealand for Australia with the similarities between our flags. The silver fern, however, is a recognisable element which conjures many positive associations with our country. It generates perceptions of middle earth and tells a bigger story about the clean and fertile environment our teas come from.”
Kong says the FernMark helps align Zealong’s brand ethos with values that represent New Zealand and its businesses. Zealong proudly presents a unique, honest and credible New Zealand product to discerning tea drinkers.
“When I’m at international trade shows, I’m selling the qualities behind our teas, but also the qualities of New Zealand. I find that people seek out that credibility, and because of its values, the FernMark combines these qualities harmoniously.”
Sharing its story of success in the face of adversity, Zealong is proud of its New Zealand heritage and honoured to have the FernMark reinforcing this legacy.
“The FernMark goes beyond a perception, it legitimises our connection to New Zealand and shows we’re authentically Kiwi.”
To find out more about Zealong, visit zealong.com