There are many positives to living in Melbourne. In particular, I love that this city pretty much has a festival for every niche interest. If you’re a blacksmith you can pop along to Footscray to the Blacksmith Festival. If you’re vegan and feeling lonely, no problem – head to Carlton for the Big Vegan Market. Or, if you’re feeling a bit frisky there’s the Oz Kink Fest, where you can engage in the Hellfire Resurrection down in South Yarra. For something (possibly) a little more sedate, join the Handknitters’ Guild for the World Knit in Public Day.
For tea enthusiasts, there’s the Melbourne Tea Festival, an annual event where the tea amateurs and tea connoisseurs share their joy for the humble camellia senensis leaf. I love the Melbourne Tea Festival; it’s been circled in my calendar for months. It didn’t disappoint.
Here are the the seven best things from this year’s event.
1. Drinking Aboriginal Guradji tea
My first tea workshop of the day introduced the customs and taste of Aboriginal Guradji tea. As you’d expect from a culture that’s so old and so wise, this tea can pretty much cure anything. For thousands of years this humble plant has fixed toothaches, pain, nausea and inflammation. And judging by the number of people who bought this tea, it’s got a good few years ahead of it too.
2. Cherry-picking my chai
Chai is clearly THE thing right now and no wonder. A good chai can be hugely restorative. There were loads of different chai stalls this year, so I planned to be super-picky about which one I’d take home. Mid-way through the day I approached the Original Chai Co and <bam> the choice was made for me. Look at that packaging! Spices in the top part of the tin, Assam tea in the bottom – and it tastes amazing. Apoorv and Gauri, owners of the company, have nailed this one.
(The other thing which appears to be ‘in’ is Kombucha, which unlike chai is utterly vile. I tasted it for the first time at this festival and almost threw up. Just so there’s no ambiguity, that WAS NOT a highlight).
3. Funky tea names
I love that tea is casting off it’s puritanical Victorian vibe and embracing the hip. The Tea Garden manages to channel the cute as well as the cool with teas like Turkish to My Delight, If Rudolph Was a Tea, Pink Lemonade and Pyjama Party. You can even subscribe to have tea delivered quarterly. I wish I’d thought of that.
4. Golden Spice tea
Turmeric is also a la mode. Apparently it can tackle all sorts of ailments, including cancer, diabetes and depression, better than any western medicine. I’m like, whatevs, does it taste any good? This question was answered by Love Tea‘s very friendly barista making Golden Spice tea. Oh my! What a taste sensation. It actually isn’t tea at all, just turmeric, ginger and cloves, made with honey and coconut milk. By the end of the day, I had asked for an embarrassing number of ‘tasters’, but I did buy a packet as well.
5. Honey by postcode
Only want your honey from a particular postcode? You don’t want to be eating honey from riff -raff bees, surely? Rooftop Honey allows you to be as selective as you like, and you’re still helping out the poor old honey bee. Yep, capitalism can cater for every need and sometimes can even make you feel good about it.
6. Getting spiritual with my tea
Hanna from Storm in a Teacup held an excellent workshop about the benefits of a daily tea ritual with ‘bowl tea’ – a kind of mindfulness for tea drinkers. She encouraged us to forge ‘a relationship with tea on a more profound level’ by taking 20 minutes every day to drink three bowls of ‘living tea’. This concept is about as far you can get from a hastily dunked tea bag, and I love it.
7. 40% discount for being one of the last suckers there
In my sixth hour of being at the festival, I realised that it was probably time to go home. On my way out though I saw these beautifully packaged balls of tea from Long’s Tea; how could I resist? With their whole range being discounted by 40%, I got a tiny tea pot and cups to drink it from too. Winning!
So really, an excellent day. My challenge, which I most certainly choose to accept, is to drink this year’s haul before next year’s festival rolls around. I hope I’m up to it.