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It might sound like an unlikely place to go for a cup of tea but the brew being produced by New Zealand’s only tea plantation is putting Hamilton well and truly on the tea connoisseur’s map.
The Zealong Tea Plantation, just 10 minutes from the city centre, is the brainchild of father and son Tzu and Vincent Chen.
Recognising the suitability of Hamilton for growing tea (acidic soil, regular rainfall, humidity, coolish nights and even a bit of fog) the pair imported tea seedlings from Taiwan in 1996 and set to work.
Today they have 50 hectares of plants and last year produced 16 tonnes of their unique Zealong blend which is sold around the world and lauded for its flavour, fragrance and purity (Zealong is the only tea in the world to be fully ISO 22000 HACCP certified which in layman’s terms testifies to its purity, safety and traceability).
The Chen’s tea estate is open to the public where visitors can learn the story behind Zealong, see how the tea is made, experience a traditional tea ceremony and of course enjoy the product while relaxing on the garden terrace or with a high tea or light lunch in the Camellia Tea House.
Taking tea is a delightful part of a visit to Hamilton but there are plenty of other activities to choose from.
Our ‘top 5’ picks in the area include:
Zealong Tea Estate, Gordonton Road
The Hamilton Gardens – free access with themed gardens from around the world including a Maori garden
Waitomo Caves – just one hour from Hamilton these famous caverns offer everything from a leisurely boat trip highlighting the magical glow worms to the chance to go caving or black water rafting
Hobbiton – 45 minutes from Hamilton in Matamata is the real Middle Earth where you can visit the movie set from the Lord of the Rings trilogy
Waikato River – stroll or bike along the recently completed 11km river bank walkway or take to this famous water way by boat
Air New Zealand flies between Hamilton and Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch linking it with 23 other destinations on its domestic network. For information and to book flights to Hamilton visit www.airnewzealand.com