Here’s a shocker. There was a time in Melbourne when coffee wasn’t king.
And we probably had The Queen to thank. We have to go back to colonial times of course, eons ago, when Australians were (ahem) the biggest consumers of tea in the world. People thought nothing of drinking 8-12 cups a day. Today Australians have dropped rank to around the 55th mark for the world’s tea drinkers, tied with South Africa (according to the fountain of research info, Wikipedia).
I actually don’t care about the numbers. What I do care about is that there is enough demand for the industry to keep flourishing, so I can have easy and affordable access to tea varieties. Hence I was delighted when I learned Melbourne was to have its first ever Tea Festival. It’s a good sign.
Arriving at the festival was akin to finding my tribe. Can you sympathise? I was rather tired of playing second class citizen in coffee country (maybe I’m simply hanging out with the “wrong” crowd all the time!). Every entrant gets a commemorative cup with which to sample teas from about 50 stalls. There were some usual suspects…T2, Bodum (not really a tea company). But I was very happy to see stallholders representing Chinese and Indian teas too.
I was also introduced to a new tea called Houjicha (or Hojicha) which I plan to get in the near future. It’s traditionally a Japanese green tea but has more recently been grown in Australia. I suspect this is going to be one of my favourites.
If there was one tea I would’ve liked to have seen at the festival that wasn’t there though, it would be teh tarek (Malaysian pulled tea). Click here for a pic, taken from this website. I can’t help it. I’m Malaysian.
Apart from that, I wasn’t disappointed. Have a listen to some of the sounds captured at the festival where I talk to fellow tea lovers and interview Renee Creer, the co-founder of the Sydney and Melbourne Tea Festivals (she also co-owns the Perfect South tea company):
Some other sights from the festival…
Yarra Valley Tea Company is one of the first of many beautifully presented stalls greeting visitors to the Tea Festival.
Want a water boiler like this for your house? Me too I think. From the Travelling Samovar Tea House.
Test tube teas. It had to happen sooner or later. From T Totaler.
My own mix from a herbal tisanes workshop I attended. Listen to my interview with workshop instructor Sarah Cowell and get some tips here:
At the centre of attention. Performance artist Yuka Mikayama gives a modern interpretation of a Japanese Tea Ceremony. She’s stationed for five hours there. I would definitely have a pins and needles problem.
I love Chinese pu-er tea cakes. I could do another whole blog post about them. One cake will last you for ages and no you don’t put the entire thing in a teapot. They are oh, so good.
These are from Yunnan Village Tea.
I also love flower tea balls! This is a super simple way to impress a dinner party. Pop it into a glass teapot and watch it bloom before your very eyes! It has a sweet and clean flavour too.
It’s not just about tea. Matcha.lab whoopie cookies anyone?
The Melbourne Tea Festival was held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre on 29 May 2016. About 4,200 people attended the festival. The festival will be back next year.
If you’re in Sydney, this year’s tea festival is on Sunday 21 August.