Many people may already know Zealong Tea Estate’s origins – the story of how New Zealand’s only commercial tea estate all started with a Camellia tree flourishing in a neighbour’s backyard.
That single tree was the inspiration for founder Vincent Chen to try growing tea in the Waikato.
“In fact, the neighbour, Harold Nielsen, became a close friend, and was instrumental in helping establish the organic estate, which now consists of 1.2 million tea plants over 48ha,” says Zealong’s Annalese Webber.
Harold maintained a close relationship with Zealong over the past 22 years. “While Vincent had a strong passion for tea, Harold had a farming background and local knowledge which proved to be invaluable over the course of transforming the former dairy farm into a tea plantation, and the five years of land conversion necessary to obtain BioGro Organic certification.”
Harold Nielsen’s involvement with Zealong was honoured last June, when a statue of him was revealed as part of the tea walk and sculpture trail. The statue also pays homage to the farming heritage of the Waikato region and history of the land on which the estate was established.
Harold celebrated his 90th birthday recently by taking a guided tour of the estate with wife, Isobel, and son John. The Zealong team surprised him at his own statue – bringing out a specially-made cake, singing happy birthday and making speeches.
Many cheers all round!