New Zealand is known for many things--Lord of the Rings , hobbits, Flight of the Conchords--but tea is not usually one of them. Why? Because there’s only one tea plantation in the entire country , it’s not a traditional tea-growing region, and until this year, a fully-functioning tea plantation did not even exist on the Kiwi islands. But a Taiwanese real estate entrepreneur, Vincent Chen , who’s background is in building massive skyscrapers, has changed all that with his new company, Zealong .
Mr. Chen brought 1,500 tea seedlings from Taiwan to New Zealand in 1996 to start his very own plantation, which has now become a 50-hectare farm. While Mr. Chen was not present at the Hong Kong International Tea Fair , his delegation was and when I inquired about the motivation to start New Zealand’s first tea plantation, I was told that tea was simply a personal passion of the 30-something year-old Chen. Once again, this just points to tea being the new status symbol  for the world’s global elite. Got some money? Open a museum, invest in wine, or, why not just start your own tea brand ? Not to mention the statement it makes about how agricultural advancements could lead to a more diverse landscape of products.
But how is the company actually doing? Well, Tony Gebely, founder of the Chicago Tea Garden , is the first and sole importer of Zealong to the United States and Fast Company sought him out to find out just how great the tea really is. "Zealong is great -- customers really like it," says Gebely, and the tea is "very fresh tasting -- much different from the same tea grown in China and Taiwan. Their goal is to make a tea that competes with Taiwan and I think they are right on track. Sales of it have been wonderful."