Rights: University of Waikato. All rights reserved. Published 24 September 2013 Download

At Zealong, they propagate new tea plants using cuttings to ensure genetic consistency and consistency in taste and quality. It takes 3–4 years from taking the cutting until the plant is mature enough for the first harvest.

Discussion points

  • What are the main advantages for Zealong of propagating new plants using cuttings rather than seeds?
  • How does this relate to the quality of the tea?
  • What are the possible disadvantages?


Fabien Masionneuve:

There are two main kinds of tea plants. There’s a Chinese tea plant that is more suitable for mild moderate climates – that would be New Zealand, China, Taiwan, for example, and you would mainly get green oolong or white tea out of that plant. And there’s more of an Indian tea plant, which is mainly used for making black tea, and that is more suited to tropical climates, so you would find these plants in India, Nepal, Australia even.

So we grow a plant again that is slightly smaller leafed, a bit of a brighter green and will have a slightly more delicate taste. And as many commercial plantations, we propagate through cuttings. This is to ensure genetic consistency and consistency in taste and quality. If you grow from the seeds, it would take much longer and also you would not be able to ensure a consistent crop.

So we propagate through cuttings, and after 12–15 months, a cutting, if successfully propagated, will grow roots, and we will then be able to transfer this tiny seedling to the tea estate. Now you will have to wait another 12–15 months for it to grow big enough that you can harvest it for the first time. So from the day you’re taking the cutting to the day you can do the first harvest, you’re looking at 3–4 years roughly.

Fabien Masionneuve, Zealong Tea
Zealong, Eterna Holdings Ltd

Anne Roberts http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en
Vikramjit Kakati http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en
Ben Discoe, Ahualoa.net