As the saying goes, nothing beats a good cup of tea. Even as a self-confessed coffee addict, I have to admit this is true.
A Brit with Indian heritage, I have been raised on mugs of full-bodied Assam, often accompanied by a digestive biscuit or three. But since arriving in Australia, my passion for a decent cuppa has gone off the boil. For while the Down Under obsession with coffee means its cafés serve up a pretty decent espresso, the tea is generally wishy washy, insipid, a little bit grey.
But could that all be about to change?
Although the drinking of tea dates back as far as the 3rd century, the organisers of last weekend’s Sydney Tea Festival describe it as the “rising star” of the beverage world.
The last few years have seen a distinct rise in the number of boutique tea brands and overall interest in the drink, culminating on Sunday in the launch of the festival – Sydney’s first dedicated to the brew.
Billed as a “celebration of specialty loose leaf tea”, the festival filled the Blacksmith’s Workshop at Carriageworks with artisanal teas in a multitude of flavours, from orange pekoe and earl grey to a range of imaginative herbal blends, luring hordes of parched punters. Like me.
Drawn by the scent of cloves and cinnamon, I find a vast bubbling vat of masala chai which has proved so popular the vendors have run out of cups. But they hunt down a few extras to cater to the final wave of tea-hungry customers. I ponder on the spiced concoction as I sip, and although it doesn’t quite take me all the way to India, it’s a decent drop – not overly sugary or thick.
The event is emptying out, but a cluster of customers lingers at each stall, sampling the variety of flavours, perusing the tea pots and nibbling on desserts.
Earlier in the day, there were workshops on cupping and blending, tea cocktails, iced teas, food pairing and the drink’s health benefits for those wanting to take their newfound interest further.
“With both the public and service industries more keen than ever to explore and learn about tea, we felt the time was right to launch the inaugural Sydney Tea Festival,” its founders said.
“We asked ourselves: how can we create passionate tea lovers? How can we help people discover new and interesting teas? How can we inspire and educate people so they can understand and experience what we call ‘the adventure of tea’?”
The festival was the end result. And while I’ll still be getting my tea bags sent over from dear old Blighty for the foreseeable, I see a little light at the end of the tunnel. That decent Aussie cuppa is surely not too far off.