Wonderful World of Tea
While it’s caffeine cousin, coffee, can be chic and trendy and a heady experience at its best, tea is soothing, calming and an experience with both delicacy and length; tea is the long warm bath to coffee’s hot shower.
Those of us who treasure their tea share a love of the leaf infusion, but Australia’s first Tea Master, Sharyn Johnston, not only loves tea but has developed an extraordinary depth of understanding to her passion, and she has poured quite a bit of that passion and knowledge into organising the inaugural Australian International Tea Expo to be held on the Geelong Waterfront in October.
The Tea Expo will be hosted across a number of venues, from The Pier, to the first floating tea training rooms at The Boathouse, to the Black Tea Dinner at the Novotel, with tea training courses, cultural activities and lots and lots of tea.
And behind it all is Sharyn of Cartel Tea.
For six and a half years Sharyn was the training manager for a global company with a spread of twenty-four countries. Wherever she was working around the world the groups would always break down the sessions over cups of tea – many, many cups of tea, of many varying styles and quality.
“When I came back from that really busy life I decided I wanted something much quieter and had this idea of opening up a quiet café. It never quite worked out like that,” Sharyn said with a laugh.
Within five minutes of talking to Sharyn and I got the overwhelming impression that slow and quiet would run away from her screaming – she is incredibly vibrant and sharp and her enthusiasm has a kind of kinetic energy of its own. The ‘quiet café’ that she opened with her son, Nathan – Nathan does the coffee and Sharyn the tea, was Coffee Cartel. When Nathan began roasting his own coffee the business took off and he needed more space for roasting. Sharyn had wanted a tearoom, so they moved into the Leather Street site.
“It’s been interesting because the specialty roasting side with the coffee side has, along the way, incorporated specialty tea. We supply eighty cafes from here and specialty coffee roasters are also interested in specialty teas.”
When Sharyn had wanted to learn more about tea, she was surprised to find there was nowhere for her to study. She eventually found a course in America, but it wasn’t the quality in depth experience she was looking for. So she took a year off to travel around different tea-producing countries, visited plantations, learned the manufacturing processes and talked to lots of people about tea manufacturing and the science of the plant. Armed with this knowledge she spent the next ten months developing a series of training modules to deliver the kind of tea training she had been seeking.
The result was the Australian Tea Masters and last year the Tea Sommelier course gained government accreditation.
That course can now be included into accredited hospitality training and has already produced around 70 tea sommeliers. There are also tea Masterclasses, tea appreciation classes, Tea 101 and certified tea blending, all of which is testament to just how serious people can be about their daily brew.
“I’ve taught tea farmers in Korea how to blend tea and I’ve just come back from teaching in Indonesia. There are a lot of people interested in tea training. I’ve been invited to the World Tea Forum in Korea and we’ve just joined the Tea Masters Cup and the World Championships are being held next year in Korea as well.
All of this as well as quite possibly being Australia’s biggest tea blenders, blending more than 200 teas and tisanes both for their own Cartel Tea label as well as blending for international companies and around 30 private Australian labels. Sharyn has been invited to judge at tea expos around the world, and since Australia doesn’t have a tea expo she decided to have one here in her hometown of Geelong.
As for that quiet café, well, that has gone by the by. For more information on the Australian Tea Expo and Australian Tea Masters visit www.australianteaexpo.com.au