The Melbourne Tea Festival returns to the Royal Exhibition Building this month.
The humble cup of tea evokes imagery of relaxation, reflection and comfort. It comes in a variety of flavours and styles, has potential healing and health benefits, and has been used in traditional rituals for thousands of years before this millennium.
While the historical brew might have been overshadowed in recent years by it’s coffee cousin, Corinne Smith, owner of The Rabbit Hole Organic Tea Bar and co-founder of The Melbourne Tea Festival believes the old cup and saucer deserves the limelight now more than ever.
“I think we are living in a really interesting time where we are just permanently connected, and it’s really hard for us to stop. I think tea is a really good opportunity to just take a couple of minutes to focus on one thing, and just take a little minute our of our day and not be in such a rush,” say Smith.
It seems Melbourne tea lovers tend to agree with this sentiment, as we welcome the Melbourne Tea Festival back to the Melbourne Exhibition Centre on Saturday, May 20 for its second year.
Kicking off in Sydney four years ago, the festival was born from Smith and co-founder Renee Creer questioning why there was a festival for pretty much everything except tea. They teamed up with green tea growers Perfect South and decided to make it happen.
Smith says the event is for people interested in higher quality blends using interesting ingredients, or for those that just want to learn more about one of the world’s most popular and ancient beverages.
“It’s a great event for people who are interested in doing things a bit differently, they’re a bit sick of plain old peppermint or chamomile, and it’s an opportunity for small specialty tea producers to come together and showcase their wares to the thriving specialty tea loving public.
There’s also a few tea connoisseurs out there who are looking at single estate teas and are interested in some of those more premium, small batch brands that are out there.”
The event itself is a casual, market style set up of about 50 stall holders, where guests can walk around with their tasting cup (included in the entry fee) and sample some of the most high quality, specialty teas Melbourne and beyond has to offer.
There are also tea workshops throughout the day where guests can steep in the knowledge of tea specialists. Hannah Dupree from Melbourne’s Storm in a Tea Cup will be talking about tea rituals and how to incorporate them into your everyday life, while Jesse Gurugirr from LORE Australia’s workshop will focus on native Australian sun tea ceremonies; looking at native ingredients and how they can be used to facilitate connections between people.
This year’s festival will include a Do It Yourself blending station, sponsored by Austral Herbs, where guests can blend their own tea creations for a small fee. She says making the perfect blend is very similar to cooking, in that it’s all about picking the right combination of flavours.
“Start off with something as a base and that might be a tea or a herb, this is basically what will form the bulk of your tea and the primary flavour. Then what you do is try to add accents to that flavour, a couple of different herbs and spices.
You should avoid adding the whole herb and spice cabinet because it might get a little overwhelming and just taste like brown.”
A new component to the 2017 Melbourne Tea Festival, which Smith is excited about is called “Tea With a Stranger”.
“It’s an opportunity to get together with a stranger and have tea, and just disconnect from phones and that side of things. Tea has been used forever and a day to help that human connection, so this will just be an opportunity to see what kind of conversation results,” says Smith.
The Melbourne Tea Festival is on Saturday May 20 at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, so put your phone on airplane mode, sign out of socials and connect with Melbourne’s fellow tea lovers for a few hours.