Everyone knows that the English are infamous for loving their teas. According to the English people, nothing is unsolvable if one just has a good cup of tea to ponder the situation over. So it really isn’t surprising that Sydney, being one of the first Australian colonies settled by the English, boasts an annual tea festival.
The Sydney Tea Festival blew into town on the fortuitously sunny Sunday of 16 August and contentedly nestled itself at the Carriageworks; the site of the old Eveleigh Rail Yards near the University of Sydney which from 2003 to 2007 was gradually transmogrified into the contemporary, multi-arts centre we all know today. So, being a bit of a tea fanatic and wanting an excuse to get out of house, I dragged a good friend along to check it out.
First impressions were admittedly nothing to do with tea, or the festival, whatsoever. I looked to my friend and asked whether it was just me or whether she too felt like we had just travelled back in time to our old university days where exams were tucked neatly away into the Carriageworks’ repurposed buildings. After agreeing we had travelled back in time and engaging in some cringe-worthy nostalgia, we ploughed into the crowd of fellow tea lovers milling around the tasting stalls.
There were just too many stalls and too many people to adequately get a good look at anything. So we cruised leisurely down the centre aisle, making note of the stalls with interesting names indicating their particular take on the class Brownian-motion-inducer liquid, before circling back around to the main entrance to pick up our $4 ceramic tasting cup.
To be honest, I was expecting an entrance fee. There was no entrance fee, we had the option to just walk in and smell the teas, enjoy the atmosphere, and talk to the marketeers for free. To taste the teas though, one needed a cup, and I was extremely surprised such a good quality tasting cup was provided. Upon checking the website the previous night, I knew cups were provided at the entrance for a small fee, but this being Sydney and most festival hosting corporations being massive cheapskates I was expecting some cheap, plastic thing. Needless to say, I was quite chuffed I was able to walk around with a tiny, well insulated cup which gradually warmed with the repeated tea pourings, and was easily wiped down between each tasting.
The first tea we sampled was a chocolate tea produced by RicoCoco’s Chocolate Tea from Menangle, a suburb just outside the CBD environs. Chocolate tea, I hear you exclaim, sounds…weird. I don’t blame you for that opinion as when I saw the sign I immediately envisioned melted chocolate diluted with hot water. I was wrong. This tea was brewed from cocoa tree bark, hence the mild and extremely pleasant chocolately taste. We walked away from that stall with a box of tea each.
Zensation Teahouse & Emporium, an eastern themed tea stall with all the expected trimmings, was the next stop. These teas were all herbal type teas and smelt delicious. We sampled a red coloured, rhubarb based brew. Being a super taster (someone who has hyper sensitivity to tastes), I assessed the brew as similar Sudafed, the children’s cough syrup sporting a sweet flavour thanks to the artificial colouring. In other words, if this tea wasn’t likely to make me bounce happily off the walls for a few hours, I would quite happily sip it all day.
We stopped for a gander at the prettily packaged herbal infusion teas of I Am Infusion. Honestly, it was the most pretty packaging I have ever seen. These blends were obviously quite popular as many of the sample tea pots were empty, so unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to taste test. What I can say is they smelt wonderfully fragrant, so I can only imagine how strong and vibrant the flavours would have been had a brew been available.
The final stall that piqued our interest was a nondescript stall with a small selection of herbal and miscellaneous teas, of which I unfortunately didn’t catch the name of and am now unable to track down on the internet. My friend tasted a thin green tea which was assessed as pleasant but not noticeably discernible from what one could get from T2. I sampled a tea called Golden Fragrance, which turned out to be a white chocolate brew with a mild, distinct taste of the sugary goodness of white chocolate. The stallholder was so busy pouring samples we never did find out how the taste was achieved, but it would make sense to assume an essence was blended into a weak herbal base.
And then it was food time and we had several stalls and food trucks to choose from. Naturally, we honed in on The Tea Cosy stall, an establishment well known in The Rocks area for their spectacular scones and high tea. They certainly didn’t disappoint, providing soft, warm, and fluffy scones made on site, and with a selection of berry jams and real whipped cream for self service. I felt like I was eating heaven.
Of the food trucks we selected The Tsuru Food Truck simply because it smelt delicious. Again we were not disappointed, being served up juicy pork belly on a bed of lettuce and spicy sauce within a fluffy, dumpling style bun. To top it off, there was a side of pencil chips liberally sprinkled with some kind of spicy salt. We couldn’t stuff out faces fast enough and felt incredibly fat afterwards, but the sacrifice was worth it.
So the day ended on two girls sitting on the concrete floor outside the Carriageworks on a beautiful spring day, surrounded by fellow tea enthusiasts.
For more information on the festival or the stall holders we visited check out the following links: