Tea-ting Ourselves at Zealong!

Treat yo’self! Or should we say, tea-t yo’self? A big part of city travel is tasting the local cuisine, having a few beverages, and meeting some cool locals. Today, we’re taking a break from the full-on adventure activities and jumping in the water in the middle of winter to warm up with tea.

“Wait a minute, guys. Since when did you turn 1000 years old?” we hear you ask. Well, as a typical English girl, Laura’s daily routine has contained far too many cups of tea straight from birth, while, well, Robin has just felt forced into drinking the “hot water”, as he calls it, in order to be accepted in society. Either way, we know nothing about tea or even what good tea tastes like, so while we’re in the city of Hamilton, we thought we’d go check out this affordable tour and tea tasting at Zealong, New Zealand’s only tea plantation!

Zeashort drive to Zealong

Zealong is a 10-minute drive out of Hamilton’s city centre and from Hamilton Central Backpackers, where we are staying, giving us plenty of time to cruise to the morning tour. We meet German, our tour guide from Columbia, who is super passionate about the work here at the tea plantation. Starting his career at Zealong as a tea picker, he worked his way up to being a tour guide. How unique would tea picking be in New Zealand? The tea plantation hires backpackers and working holidaymakers every year, so keep an eye on there if you are looking for seasonal work! We are also joined by four Kiwi ladies who we later find are the best tea-drinking companions…

The story of New Zealand’s only tea plantation is told through the copper and brass sculptures set up among the garden on the way to the tea house, which makes for good photo opportunities, whether it’s artistic or by being just plain silly. (We did both). In all seriousness, we are pretty shocked by how much work goes into the tea-making process, which is explained by German as we wander along the tea estate and shown in a quick video presentation.

Robin tries to pour us a cuppa... Robin tries to pour us a cuppa...
Proper tea Proper tea
Tea drinking dance in action Tea drinking dance in action
Yum! Yum!

Tea pouring competitions

The moment we have been waiting for: tasting the tea! Apparently, dipping a dirty old tea bag from the supermarket in some boiling water with a spoon full of sugar and a splash of milk is NOT the best way to drink tea. What?! We’ve been living a lie!

Have you ever drunk tea which actually tastes and smells like real organic ingredients, while having some banter with some old ladies from New Zealand? Well, you should! We have a blast having pouring competitions, seeing who could pour the highest, and learning a tea-drinking dance with all our tea-drinking apparatus. Then Kiwis and the Pommy (Laura from the UK) team up to have a bash at the French (Robin).

German then tells us he: “has a surprise for us”. Is it cake? Please tell us it’s cake!

It’s cake

Well, it’s fancy tarts, tiny salads, cakes and macaroons! We feel freakin’ posh right now and we finally have some more room after last night’s Hobbiton feast. This is so cool to go from one extreme to another in this New Zealand road trip. This country really has it all: the adventure, the relaxation, the people, and now… the tea!

Oh, campervan…

Eventually, we pull ourselves away from Zealong and head back on the road for our COF check on the van. This is a Certificate of Fitness (and equivalent to a Warrant of Fitness) to make sure your vehicle is legally roadworthy. Now, if you have been keeping up with anything we ever talk about with this campervan, you can probably guess what is about to happen next.

The piece of sh*t fails it COF. There is a rusty hole under the driver’s cabin that need welding before our current COF runs out or else it will be illegal to take this thing out on the road… We have two weeks to figure out this problem. We drive from panel beater to panel beater trying to find someone with the time to fix our van within the next two weeks. Despite the first three mechanics being too busy, they were eager to refer us to their friend’s garage down the road to find a place for us. In the end, we find a mechanic who fill have the van for a couple of days next week. But that leaves us with another hefty bill and a bit of a downer to what had been a great day.

But, a big lesson in travel is: things are going to go wrong, but there’s always a way to make it work.

Laura and Robin

We fit in here, right?
We fit in here, right? Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Want more?

If you like this blog post, you’ll like these articles on New Zealand’s fantastic cuisine!

And what is Instagram without a shameless food picture? Check out our Zealong pictures at our page, @BackpackerGuide.NZ and take a look at our local recommendations on HerePin.

See you tomorrow!

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