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Taichung native makes oolong with a twist

The China Post--Vincent Chen (陳俊維), 37, makes Taiwanese oolong with a twist: he grows it in New Zealand.

At his 50-hectare vineyard-like estate, Chen produces three specialty oolongs that — like Chen himself — are native to Taiwan but rooted overseas.

These are pioneering teas, part of the only tea venture that has successfully taken root in New Zealand. They're also possibly the purest teas in the world.

Son of Taichung

For the most part, Chen is just the sort of person some might expect to come out of the Taichung countryside. He eats his fruits and vegetables, likes to fish, and looks ill at ease with small talk.

His father moved out from Taichung in the early 1990s, to develop a row of luxury housing just north of Hamilton, New Zealand.

“They left me alone in Taiwan,” says Chen wryly. “They maybe didn't like me.”

But the Chens are in fact enormously close, and Chen — an only child — is the model of a good son. In 1996, Chen joined the family overseas, prepared to live there for as long as they did.

Like most Taichung households, the Chens liked tea.

Eyeing a prospering camellia bush in a neighbor's backyard, the immigrant household thought that growing its own camellia, or tea, would “be nice.”

“In the beginning, it was only our hobby,” said Chen, who was then working in his father's business. “We wanted to make nice tea to drink.”

Their first trial bushes did well, and the family's interest — and aspirations — grew. Chen Sr. allotted more property for tea growing, and the younger Chen spent more of his evenings researching tea and larger-scale planting.

Business in New Zealand

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In this undated file photo, Vincent Chen (陳俊維), founder of Zealong, stands on his tea estate in Hamilton, New Zealand.

(Courtesy of Zealong)

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