On August 21st, Carriageworks in Sydney was transformed into a Mad Hatter’s tea party of sorts. The Sydney Tea Festival is now in its third year and it’s an event that continues to go from strength to strength. In 2016 over 80 different stallholders came together to celebrate their love of Camellia Sinensis and offered tea for two and three, and more!
The festival consisted of several parts. There were workshops where people could learn about the origins and essentials of tea, about blending their own varieties and participate in a tea reading (or at one stall a “tongue” reading) to enhance their knowledge of themselves and how it relates back to tea. A chocolate pairing workshop allowed patrons to sample truffles from Koko Black along with different types of teas. There was also a cube where patrons could either participate or witness an ancient tea ceremony.
The main part of the festival was dedicated to a large tea market. These stalls were a buzzing hive of activity where ceramics and china were for sale alongside tea cosies (including Pokémon ones!) and various tea pots and tea wares. There were hundreds of different teas that visitors could sample in the ceramic mugs that were included in the ticket price. They also had the chance to purchase boxes of tea on the day. These included things like oolongs and spicy chais to smooth green teas and robust English Breakfasts and even a purple leaf Kenyan tea that was rich in antioxidants. There were teas that promised to alleviate the symptoms of gout, arthritis or anxiety, and another that claimed to help you quit smoking.
The Tea Cosy stall reminded us that cream and jam-topped scones and tea, are a match made in heaven. The amazing Black Star Pastry had lots of gorgeous sweet teats like a lychee cake, an orange cake with Persian figs and their famous strawberry watermelon cake. Other stallholders even added tea to their desserts like Rainbow Nourishments with their chai and blueberry cheesecake.
The Sydney Tea Festival is an annual event that takes place in August, while the Melbourne instalment occurs in May. The Sydney one saw thousands of people descend upon Carriageworks to learn and experience tea, along with some passionate and knowledgeable tea and dessert artisans, in what proved to be one fun day. There was a little something for everyone at this event which meant that The Sydney Tea Festival proved it could be everyone’s cup of tea.
Q&A with Corinne Smith co-founder of Sydney Tea Festival and The Rabbit Hole Tea Bar
1. Can you briefly introduce yourself and describe your involvement in the Sydney Tea Festival?
My name is Corinne Smith and I am one of the co-founders of the Festival. I also have a tea business called The Rabbit Hole Organic Tea Bar.
2. How long have you been involved with the Sydney Tea Festival? How did you come to be involved?
I’ve been involved since the very inception as my co-founder, Renee Creer (from Perfect South) used to sit around drinking tea, lamenting the lack of celebration of tea in Australia – which is how the concept for the tea festival was first hatched.
3. What is your favourite tea and why?
I’m an oolong fan. It’s my go-to, any time of the day or night tea and I love the variety. Within this one style of tea there are thousands of different variants and enormous breadth of flavour profiles. For someone who gets bored easily, I never tire of it!
4. What are you most looking forward to at Sydney Tea Festival? Why?
I’m looking forward to seeing all the new tea companies exhibiting for the first time. The industry is growing so fast and it’s really exciting to see the innovation happening.
5. Iced tea vs. hot tea and coffee vs. tea. What are your preferences and why?
Of course I have to say tea! I do drink coffee, but I max out on one cup a day before I start getting jittery. Tea, on the other hand I can drink almost intravenously and feel fantastic afterwards. I love hot tea in the cooler months but my go to in summer is one of our sparkling tea sodas.
6. The Tea Festival looks set to feature workshops and an interactive tea ceremony. Can you tell us more about this?
Absolutely. The workshops are an opportunity to discover more about tea. For those starting their journey, Tea Essentials and the Origins of Tea are where it’s at, hosted by renowned expert, David Lyons. For others, perhaps a peek into the world of tea leaf reading might hit the spot or even dabbling in blending your own tea.
The interactive tea ceremony will be an opportunity for festival-goers to experience the ancient tea ceremony ritual with a contemporary slant.
7. Why do you think people should attend the Sydney Tea Festival?
It’s a really great opportunity to discover a lot about tea in a very short space of time. There are so many knowledgeable people, passionate about great tea and ready to share that with you. For those who are already in love with the leaf, it’s an opportunity to get their hands on new blends and special Festival releases.
8. What do you think are the essential ingredients for a good tea? What ingredients should never be used to make tea?
Essential “ingredients” for good tea are quality leaves and the right amount of them, using the correct temperature and steeping for the correct time. In terms of what you can use to make a tea, really it’s only limited by your imagination, there are very few rules.
9. Is the temperature of the water important when making tea? I’ve heard that green tea requires one temperature while black requires another?
Absolutely. The lighter the tea (i.e. white, green or oolong tea), the cooler the water needs to be so as not to burn the leaves and to bring out excess astringency. Black teas and tisanes (herbal teas not actually containing the tea leaf, Camellia Sinensis) can tolerate boiling water with no trouble.
10. Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers of The Australia Times Gourmet magazine about the Sydney Tea Festival or tea in general?
This is tea but not as you know it. Come and discover specialty tea and explore what could be your new favourite drink.
Originally published on 28 September 2016 at the following website: http://www.theaustraliatimes.com/magazine/gourmet/issue/409/#39
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