The tea trend steeped in style

Modern drinkers know this hot beverage is the new black – and green and many other colours

Central and North Burnett Times - - WEEKEND - BY Brigid Sime­oni

A TREND is brew­ing steadily in cafes, restau­rants and homes across the coun­try – the hip and health-con­scious Aussie’s cup of tea. The com­mon cuppa has shed its hum­ble rep­u­ta­tion, as tea in­dus­try gu­rus re­veal our thirst is grow­ing for the more so­phis­ti­cated side of this brew with ben­e­fits. It is a sub­ject Dil­han Fer­nando is pas­sion­ate about as the son of lux­ury tea brand Dilmah founder Mer­rill Fer­nando. Tea man­u­fac­tur­ing is a fam­ily af­fair for the Fer­nan­dos and the stun­ning plan­ta­tions where their crops are plucked are steeped in Sri Lanka’s cul­ture and his­tory. “Tea is en­joy­ing an in­cred­i­ble re­nais­sance,” Mr Fer­nando tells a Bris­bane au­di­ence at the Dilmah School of Tea, an event de­signed to in­spire tea en­thu­si­asts and give them a greater un­der­stand­ing of the nat­u­ral herb and its ver­sa­til­ity. The tea ex­pert, who is the first half of the Dilmah name­sake – the sec­ond syl­la­ble comes from his brother Ma­lik – ex­plains the world’s sec­ond most con­sumed drink has evolved to a sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence. Peo­ple are look­ing for teas to suit dif­fer­ent moods, oc­ca­sions and foods. “We’re get­ting a new gen­er­a­tion of tea drinkers,” Mr Fer­nando says. “Ten years ago you would have been hard pressed to find some­one un­der 40 with a teapot in their kitchen.” To­day the mar­ket for tea sets and ac­ces­sories tar­gets stylish sip­pers of all ages and there is plenty of star power to back it up. Lady Gaga is among the high-pro­file tea drinkers and model Mi­randa Kerr has col­lab­o­rated with Royal Al­bert to de­sign a pas­tel china teaware col­lec­tion. Mr Fer­nando de­scribes the modern tea drinker as “ad­ven­tur­ous” and seek­ing a va­ri­ety of “tea ex­pe­ri­ences”. “It’s mood as­so­ci­ated, food as­so­ci­ated, it’s per­sonal pref­er­ence, it’s the time of the day. It’s so many dif­fer­ent fac­tors,” he says. A fo­cus on well­be­ing is an­other driver be­hind tea’s pop­u­lar­ity, a trend he says has trick­led down from the buzz sur­round­ing healthy eat­ing. “Peo­ple are look­ing for well­ness in their food; if you look at the kale trend, kom­bucha, fer­mented foods, these all are driven by a de­sire for well­ness,” he says. Thanks to its an­tiox­i­dant con­tent, tea has long been touted as a pow­er­ful elixir. Po­ten­tial ben­e­fits from drink­ing tea range from re­duc­ing stress and boost­ing ex­er­cise en­durance to links with fight­ing cer­tain can­cers, pre­vent­ing type 2 di­a­betes and cut­ting the risk of de­men­tia. Tea som­me­lier Gina da Silva be­lieves the grow­ing com­mu­nity of peo­ple want­ing to im­prove their diet and life­style has led to a greater aware­ness about the ad­van­tages of drink­ing tea. “Peo­ple are start­ing to find the health ben­e­fits at­tached to tea,” Ms da Silva says. Her Sun­shine Coast tea house The Silva Spoon has a di­verse range of gourmet teas and she says the niche mar­ket at­tracts tea con­nois­seurs look­ing for a point of dif­fer­ence. “Gourmet brands are re­ally be­com­ing more pop­u­lar,” she says, point­ing to sales of their creme brulee and co­conut cream va­ri­eties of chai tea tak­ing off. She says the “green shot” blend, de­signed to drink be­fore a work­out, is an­other sought-af­ter op­tion. Tea para­pher­na­lia is also prov­ing pop­u­lar. “Peo­ple are tak­ing their tea ex­pe­ri­ence a lot more se­ri­ously and are look­ing for del­i­cate china cups to drink from and Ja­panese teapots to brew their tea,” Ms da Silva says. “It’s be­com­ing a bit of more of an art form.” While cof­fee cul­ture still dom­i­nates in Aus­tralia, re­search into our tea drink­ing habits re­veals half of the na­tion’s pop­u­la­tion aged 14 and over drinks at least one cup of hot tea a week. Roy Mor­gan fig­ures show the av­er­age vol­ume of tea con­sumed dur­ing the 12 months to June 2016 to be 9.5 cups a per­son, up from 9.1 cups the pre­vi­ous year. Women are more likely to be tea drinkers than men, with 55% hav­ing at least one cup in an av­er­age week com­pared with 45% of men. Mr Fer­nando says he is see­ing fewer strictly cof­fee or tea camps and some peo­ple are drink­ing both to cater to their needs or moods at dif­fer­ent times of the day. The in­creas­ingly so­phis­ti­cated world for tea afi­ciona­dos has put the spot­light on tech­niques to brew and present the per­fect cup. For­get clum­sily dunk­ing a teabag in boil­ing water for 30 sec­onds; those who take their tea se­ri­ously are ven­tur­ing into loose-leaf va­ri­eties and fol­low­ing a care­ful process to achieve the best beverage. The rules in­clude ev­ery­thing from stor­ing your tea

‘‘ We’re get­ting a new gen­er­a­tion of tea drinkers. Ten years ago you would have been hard pressed to find some­one un­der 40 with a teapot in their kitchen.

care­fully – in an air­tight con­tainer away from mois­ture, heat, light and odours – to cor­rect dosage (2.5g of tea per 220ml water). There are also water tem­per­a­ture and brew­ing time guide­lines for dif­fer­ent types of tea. In­cor­po­rat­ing tea into dishes and pair­ing teas and foods are other hot top­ics dis­cussed as we move into the chilly months. Like wine, the abil­ity of tea to en­hance food is sig­nif­i­cant. “It’s about build­ing a sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence – that’s what con­sumers are de­mand­ing,” he says. School of Tea par­tic­i­pants are given a taste of tea pair­ings touch­ing on both sweet and savoury. They in­clude szechuan chicken teamed with earl grey and choco­late fudge served with a re­fresh­ing Moroc­can mint; each com­bi­na­tion a match made in heaven. The culi­nary op­tions are end­less, from brew­ing tea into bit­ters or pair­ing tea with cheeses to us­ing it in a jus. How­ever, he says it is es­sen­tial to trust your taste­buds and sam­ple dishes with and with­out the tea el­e­ment to see what works. He ex­pects the trend of us­ing tea as an in­gre­di­ent in food and drinks to be firmly on the foodie radar as it ex­pands in Aus­tralia’s hos­pi­tal­ity scene. “In ad­di­tion to the restau­rants, it’s go­ing to hap­pen in bars – we’ll see more tea cock­tails and tea mixol­ogy,” he says. Whether it be en­joy­ing the rit­ual of mak­ing a cup to en­joy at home, brew­ing the beverage for bet­ter health or in­dulging in a fine din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, ap­pre­ci­a­tion for tea time is go­ing strong. As Mr Fer­nando says: “There is no more rel­e­vant herb to our lives in the 21st cen­tury.”

PHOTO: AP/MUSTAFA QURAISHI

◗ THIS PHOTO: Singing su­per­star Lady Gaga is one of the celebrity drinkers of tea. TOP LEFT: Dilmah founder Mer­rill J. Fer­nando tast­ing tea be­tween his sons Dil­han and Ma­lik. MID­DLE: One of the beau­ti­ful Dilmah tea es­tates. RIGHT: The Silva Spoon owner Gina da Silva says the mar­ket for gourmet teas is grow­ing.

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