An article By Daniel Bateman, published in The Cairns Post.
ONE of the world’s largest tea brands is sniffing out opportunities to form new relationships with food providers in the Far North.
Sri Lanka based Dilhan C Fernando, the son of Dilmah founder Merrill J. Fernando, was in Cairns yesterday hosting the last of the company’s seven Australian School of Tea sessions with representatives from the local hospitality industry.
Participants in the gastronomical workshop were shown the fundamentals of tea-making, including how to brew the perfect cup, how to taste the difference between teas grown at different altitudes, and how to match different teas with different foods.
Cairns is the only regional location in the nation selected for one of the half-day sessions, with other classes hosted in metropolitan areas.
Mr Fernando said modern tea consumers were looking for new and unique tea-drinking experiences.
However he told the audience that unfortunately, “no one does tea well” in the hospitality industry.
“You just need to ask people to take a fresh look,” he said.
“The tea you see in most hospitality establishments is not changed from the 18th century.”
Mr Fernando, who toured the Tablelands on the weekend, said tea was increasingly being used a a food accompaniment, similar to wine.
“We visited Gallo (Dairyland)…and they are doing cheese and wine,” he said.
“They have this spectacular rainforest cheese.
“It was outstanding, but with tea, the ability of tea to remove the fats and bring out certain flavours, it could be truly extraordinary.”
He said Dilmah would be interested in forming commercial partnerships with food providers from the region.
“It’s not specifically commercial partnerships, but here’s a different way of enjoying your tea,” he said.
“So whether it is with cheese, or cigars, or music, or with chocolates – we just want people to look at tea with new eyes and new ways to engage consumers at a different level,” he said.
Sri Lanka is one of the world’s major producers of tea, with its roots in the late 1800s. The island nation’s homegrown industry has since grown to become worth an estimated $US1.6 billion. Far North Queensland has several tea-growers, notably Nerada which has a plantation at Malanda.