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A Weekend In Geelong at The Australian International Tea Expo

The sky was a pure blue, the day was a pleasant 26 degrees Celsius, and the waves gently lapped at the shore line as I made my way to the pier at Geelong, Victoria. It was Saturday 17th October, and I was looking forward to two days of all things tea at the Australian International Tea Expo. Geelong’s promenade and pier, made me feel quite at home as I strolled along, with its very English feel of a British seaside town. The only thing’s missing, were the donkey rides, deckchair’s and “Kiss Me Quick” hats. Oh well, somethings you just have to reminisce about!

This the first tea expo and masterminded by Sharyn Johnston, founder and director of Australian Tea Masters. The expo was running over three days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with a varied selection of tea retailers, producers and tea affiliated companies. During the three days individual classes were being presented at various times of the day, everything from opening your own tea business, blending your own chai to pairing various foods with teas. The expo was open to the public and trade alike, with a $25 general entrance fee. Most of the individual classes were around the $35 price with the “Black Tea Dinner” on the Saturday evening at $170.

As I wondered around the expo over the two days, it was great to catch up with friends and colleagues of the Australian tea trade. I also had the opportunity over the weekend to meet and talk tea with a whole new group of people. Learn about their teas, how they operate their businesses, and of course taste their wonderful brews.

As at any expo, certain products you see and taste, or people you meet, stand out and make an impression on you. For me it was a great pleasure to see Impala and Peacocks, new tea packaging on display. After being with owner Sarah in China, and visiting the factory where the packaging is being produced. Having the chance again to talk with Coco from Yunnan Village, a new tea company in Canberra. Seeing her dream having come to fruition, and now being able to taste her amazing Yunnan wild black teas and cake Puerh. Spicing things up and talking masala chai with Apoorv and Gauri of Original Chai Co. Learning more about Australian teas from the growers, Davide & Erin Angelini from Alpine Tea Co. and Jane from Tassie-T who grows the most southerly grown tea in the world. I so enjoyed the story of Canadian based company Andrews-George and their product Domatcha, told to me by Anna Harrison, Domatcha’s International Manager. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, as she told it to me. And it was certainly a pleasure being introduced to and tasting, the Indonesian teas of BukitSari tea plantation.

So as I jump in my car, and took my leave of the Australian International Tea Expo and Geelong. Making my way back to Canberra. I had more than enough time to reflect, over my two days of tea on the pier. I think that Sharyn and her team from Australian Tea Masters should be congratulated for the time, effort and expense of putting on this event. I hope as they have time to reflect on the event, they feel pleasantly pleased with what they achieved. It would have been nice to see more of the trade there supporting the expo but as many said to me before the event Geelong seemed an odd choice for such an event. I would also like to draw your attention and my thanks to the stallholders at the event, for their time and effort. Standing, smiling and trying to answer every type of question being thrown at you, is certainly not easy. For many this would be their first experience of expo life and I do hope that they and their businesses, see the benefits of the event.

The Australian speciality tea market is opening people’s eyes to the possibilities of what tea can be. Events like this and the Sydney Tea Festival are beacons of inspiration, and the organisers should be congratulated on their initiative and pure determination. The Australian tea industry is filled with imaginative, entrepreneurial, passionate and hardworking people. I believe with more collaboration and communication, speciality tea is on the path to boom in suburbs and cities around Australia.

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