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Why don’t we have New Zealand grown tea?

Regardless of what food and beverage trends come and go in the hospitality industry, tea always remains a popular choice among hotel and motel guests.

To appeal to your tea-drinking crowd, well-travelled guests, savvy corporates and holidaymakers you are probably conscious about which teas you’re offering. Having an exceptional range of teas tantalises your guest’s taste buds and can be served throughout the property. From the rooms to the bar, lounge, restaurant or even during a High Tea service the possibilities are endless when you have brands that taste delicious.  

As we work with our clients to help select the tea ranges that best suit their property and budget we often get asked, “Why don’t you have New Zealand grown tea?”

Growing tea in New Zealand isn't something just anyone can do and here are the top 3 reasons why:

1. Climate:

The climate of the tea crops location can greatly affect the quality of the final product. Tea is very susceptible to frost and drought so in order to grow great tasting tea, you need high humidity and heavy rainfall. The average rainfall in New Zealand is half of what you need for growing tea and during the winter there are long periods of frosty mornings. When the frost settles on top of the tea bush it attacks the fleshy new buds and leaves, which can destroy the majority of the crop. The high UV levels in New Zealand can also cause the tea leaves to have a yellower tone rather than the desired bright-green colour.

2. Labour & Tea Cultivation:

Tea picking is a careful and tedious process where manpower is of utmost significance. The tea leaves are surprisingly fragile so the crops are harvested by hand to preserve the quality of the leaves. It’s important the labourers pluck the right leaf because choosing the wrong one or bruising a good leaf can deteriorate the final product. With labour at an all-time shortage and New Zealand’s minimum wage higher than a lot of overseas countries growing tea in NZ is uneconomical.


3. Harvest:

Tea can be as intricate as wine and just as expensive to harvest. To harvest tea in New Zealand you need to have the highest standard of tea production. Zealong is the only company to successfully grow and process tea in New Zealand. Once their leaves are ready for harvest and have been plucked they are dried in a large climate-controlled glasshouse so there is no risk of contamination by birds, insects or dust which is something quite unusual in the world of tea.

Due to the climate and additional harvesting steps the cost to produce tea in NZ is extremely high compared to producing crops in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is one of the most commonly known tea growers and harvests a crop every 1-2 weeks yielding approximately 300,000 tons per annum. New Zealand only harvests a crop every 10 weeks and produces approximately 20 tons of tea a year. With figures like these, it’s evident the cost of the end product will be exponentially more expensive and outside the price range most hotels or motels would be willing to spend.

While these examples establish why we don’t have any New Zealand grown tea we do have a mix of brands that are very popular among guests: Pukka Herbs, T2 Tea, Dilmah and Chanui - a locally owned and operated option. With these premium teas in your hotel, you can be confident you're offering the best in New Zealand, and your guests will thank you for it.

If you want to learn more check out our recent comparison article: Chanui Tea vs Dilmah Tea - What is the best range for me? Or get in touch, we’d love to help you treat your guest's tastebuds to New Zealand's best.

About the author

Brynlee Beatson

Brynlee Beatson

As Astro’s Client Experience Specialist and a 3rd generation Beatson, Brynlee truly understands the journey our customers undertake. Listening and acting on their feedback enables our team to deliver better products and services, which ultimately helps hoteliers and moteliers throughout New Zealand create superior guest experiences.

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