It’s just before 8.00am on a beautiful Sunday morning, and I’m just pulling up outside a facility known as Carriageworks in the suburb of Redfern, Sydney, Australia. Today is Sunday 16th August 2015 and we’re about one hour away from the opening of the Sydney Tea Festival 2015. Last year’s inaugural event was a great success for festival promoters Corrine Smith and Renee Creer but how will 2015’s festival stack up?
Expectations are running high with the buzz that social and regular media has created over the last few weeks, and the thousands of likes the festivals Facebook account has clocked up. As I walk down the steps into the large hangar like area, which is to house the majority of the festival, in particular the much anticipate tea market stalls. It’s a hive of last minute activity down there, with stall holders rushing around. Team members at each stall are busy trying to add those last minute touches, and prepare themselves for the day ahead. The early morning atmosphere is incredibly friendly between tea colleagues, and the air is thick with chatter of tea and the day ahead. Smiles are everywhere, and of course an abundance of tea, in every style, flavour and packaging you can imagine.
As I walk slowly along the stalls, catching up with friends and meeting new comers to the Australian tea trade. It’s nice to see everyone so full of excitement, a handshake here, a hug there and some quick conversation, before the early visitors start to arrive. As I strolled along the effort that has been made by so many stallholders, in presenting their take on tea, promoting their brand and creating a fresh, clean, unique and professional vision for attendees to enjoy, is truly commendable.
The stalls offer teas of every description, exquisite 1st flush teas from Darjeeling, flavoursome greens from China and Japan, a plethora of Indian style chai, beautiful oolongs and even a large leafed yellow tea. As for the extensive range of flavoured teas on various stalls, one can only describe it as a smorgasbord of flavours. Armed with your Sydney Tea Festival tasting cup, the stall holders offer tastings of selected teas at each their stall for you to try. Those looking for herbal or fruit alternatives, the range of tisane is a positive rainbow of flower petals, herbs, spices and fruits. The constant conversation around these stalls is on health and wellbeing. Which makes your conscience twitch as you approach the cake and scone stalls, you can try but they’re far too difficult to avoid! Delicacies and specialities from around the world, mixed with unique interpretations of old favourites are here to tempt you into submission. As for those scones being freshly baked on the stall, and served with thick cream & jam, not fair. The intoxicating smell of freshly baked scones wafts along, and is truly captivating.
It’s easy to get carried away with all the teas, tisane and goodies at the festival, but a visit to the excellent range of tea accessory stalls this year is superb. With ranges of glassware, ceramics, knitted tea cosies and specialist in unique tea wares, it’s spectacular. From the unusual, to the eclectic, from the specialist, to the alternate, the tea accessory stalls offer something for everyone’s taste and pocket.
By 10.00am the hall is most definitely as busy as last year’s festival at its peak, but a quick check on the streets leading to the event, confirms people still arriving. There was no doubt in my mind that this year’s festival is going to be much bigger than last year.
I took a walk back up the steps to the Yamma Dhiyaan Training Centre, where the workshops were taking place. These workshops offer attendees a chance to listen to a specialist in a given tea subject. A chance for them to hopefully gain that extra knowledge they are looking for. The workshops being presented this year cover a variety of subjects including: the art of chai, tea mediation, the Japanese and Chinese tea ceremonies, herbal tisane, pairing tea and desserts, and my own workshop on the fundamentals of tea.
Taking a look around the festival, it’s easy to identify the leading demographic when it comes to tea, females in the late teens and through their twenties. As I reflect on this, I smile and think to myself how wonderful it is, faces change, fashions come and go, tea businesses pop up and also disappear but, as it has been throughout the last few hundred years young women shape the demand within the tea industry. These women without knowing it, are the tea fashionista’s of the today!
Later after the event, a quote suggested that the make-up of festival attendees was – over 55% in the age range 15 to 35, and that 65% of these were female. The festival operators gave figures of double the attendance of 2014, which means over 10,000 people took a stroll, tasted some teas, nibbled some goodies, bought tea pots, tea cosies and leaf tea for home. What a great day!
And as the end of the day appeared and the hard work of packing up began, the conversation wasn’t just around what a great day it had been, but what about next year! The Sydney Tea Festival is by far the largest tea event in Australia and with the support of the hardworking organisers, volunteers, stallholders and workshop participants this event is going from strength to strength.
2016 Sydney Tea Festival coming at you bigger, better and more beautiful in Sydney 2016.
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