The only view of tea fields in New Zealand can now be viewed from an $8 million building.

Zealong Estate, New Zealand's only commercial tea-growing operation, opened its visitor centre and production plant, named Vista, in Hamilton's Gordonton on Thursday.

And Prime Minister John Key was there to open it.

"I don't know if I'm cutting a ribbon, unveiling a plaque, or drinking a cup of tea," Key said, "but I'm happy to do all three."

It was a plaque he had to unveil, and tea was in the offing, too.

The idea for the company came to owner Vincent Chen when he spotted a camellia plant growing in the Waikato in 1996.

Chen realised if other camellias could grow here, so could tea camellias.

Key used the opportunity to endorse Zealong as a positive image for foreign investment.

"There're always people, both in Parliament and in the media, who will talk about foreign investment as if it's negative."

However, Zealong's exponential growth is nod for the positive aspects of foreign investment, he said.

The tea company is now focused on exporting its goods.

"We are never going to get rich selling to 4.7million New Zealanders," Key said. 

When thinking about a global audience, the most important offering Zealong has is its story, Key said.

Other companies compete on price and distribution, but no others could compete with the story - which is what consumers are buying.

Key described the building as spectacular, something that would fit comfortably on Paris's Champs Elysee. 

And that could be because Zealong's French retail manager, Olivia Cessac, had a hand in designing it.

She was part of the team designing the interior, because she had been with the company for six years and knew what was wanted.

"It's important that we design something right for the company and not rely on others to know what's good for us."

Image source: Mark Taylor/Fairfax NZ

Zealong Tea Estate is New Zealand's only commercial tea plantation

About Zealong

Zealong is New Zealand's only commercially grown tea.

The New Zealand-owned company, plantation and world-class restaurant can be found on Hamilton’s northern outskirts and represents a $20 million investment in what is the only commercial tea plantation in New Zealand.

Zealong has become a key element within New Zealand's clean and green story. Currently about two thirds of the company's annual production is exported, with the balance being sold domestically through forty-two outlets across the country.

The enterprise began with 130 premium quality seedlings imported from Taiwan in 1996 and now comprises about 1.2 million lovingly-nurtured plants, hosted on a 48 hectare estate.

For more visit Zealong

The Vista is Zealong's brand new visitor centre and functions facility and is set at the entrance of the Zealong Tea Estate.


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