Grown, processed, and packed in New Zealand.
Three times a year, for 20 days at a time, Zealong harvests its most tender leaves and processes them in a state-of-the art tea factory.
Not all leaves are picked during harvesting but only the top young and juicy leaves with a portion of the stem on which they have grown and the tender bud (or tip) – an unexpanded leaf at the end of the shoot. The top two leaves and the bud are ideal.
Every aspect of production is controlled under the highest food safety standards.
The pickers pluck just the top three, most tender and most flavourful leaves.
The tea leaves are sun-dried in our purpose-built glasshouse under strict food safety standards.
Withering is the process by which the leaves lose 25% – 50% of their moisture.
At Zealong, the process is highly controlled by monitoring and adjusting the humidity, temperature, air-flow and density inside the on-site Zealong tea processing factory. The process involves stirring to distribute moisture evenly.
Tossing is a continuation of the withering process and the initiation of the oxidation process. The process of oxidation includes initiation, oxidation and fixing (or stopping) the process at the desired stage.
Oxidation is the process of browning the leaves. Green tea is unoxidised, oolong is partially oxidised, and black is fully oxidised.
Heat, humidity, air flow, light and processing time need to be controlled in the oxidation process. At Zealong, in the specialised glass house, the tea masters have full climatic control in their oxidation rooms ensuring this process is perfected.
DE-ENZYMING OR FIXING
De-enzyming is the process of stopping the oxidisation process using high temperature. For green tea this happens early in the process to prevent the leaves from oxidising at all. It’s important to time this process just right for the oolong teas (and oolong variations occur with different timing) but is unnecessary for black tea which is fully oxidised.
ROLLING AND SHAPING
Pressure is used to roll the leaves into the desired shape. Long and curly, semi-rounded or tightly-rounded. This process is not just about the leaf shape. Rolling the leaves secretes juices, which alter the flavour and liquor colour. The rolling and drying process isn’t just a linear set of actions but several repetitions of rolling and heating, rolling and heating.
Drying is the final step in the process and is done to further develop the flavour, colour, aroma, and make the tea shelf stable. There are two parts to this process, a short, high heat process followed by a longer, lower heating time.