Drinking lots of tea. Merrill and Dilhan Fernando have been in Australia as part of the world-wide Real High Tea Challenge http://realhightea.dilmahtea.com/. Great idea. It’s getting chefs to think of tea as an ingredient in cooking, not just an accompanying beverage. It’s tea gastronomy, if you like. It’s now world-wide, and the Victorian finals were won by Qantas Lounges by Pullman http://australia.etbnews.com/219272/qantas-lounge-chefs-win-dilmah-real-high-tea-challenge-melbourne/.
I think all the competitors were winners, going on the images of the dishes they created. It’s a serious challenge, a World Association of Chefs event. There were such clever pairings at the awards ceremony: mini hamburgers with English Breakfast, a creamy cheesecake with Oolong.
In terms of the use of tea in cooking, here are some of the ideas from the last challenge, as published in the second volume. Dilmah’s Yata Watte was used as part of the smoking mixture for ocean trout, dried fruits steeped in Earl Grey, Ceylon Cinnamon Spice tea used as part of the liquid for caramelised apple and cinnamon scones, sago pudding cooked in camomile tea. It’s all given me some ideas, such as poaching a whole salmon in a jasmine tea infusion.
I have a particular affection for Dilmah teas soma. I love the flavours and the freshness. My own preference is for high-grown teas, and I’m also partial to oolong. What I have always admired the the Fernando family’s commitment to the quality of the tea we drink, and the quality of the lives of the people in their own country, When I first met Merrill Fernando when Dilmah was first launched in Australia, he talked about the importance of raising tea from commodity level for Sri Lanka. A fair price for tea means a fair price for workers – at least, it does for Dilmah, which makes huge investments in the wellbeing of its country. On a lighter, more practical note, you’ve got to love a company that recognises that English Breakfast is not the blend we want to drink all day. Try the English Afternoon Tea blend, anytime in the afternoon. Or the Ceylon Supreme. There’s a good on-line store. http://onlineshop.dilmah.com.au/