ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 40

It’s tea time with cocktails and mocktails!

By Smriti Daniel

All they have is twenty minutes – and you can see their determination to make the most of it. The bell sounds the beginning of a flurry of activities for the master creators on stage. In the glare of the spotlight, they mix and stir, add a dash of soda or a sprinkling of cinnamon, decorate with mango leaves or fruits impaled with toothpicks and mixers. All the while they keep up a trained patter, describing exactly what their hands are doing.

Each one of them must entertain even as he or she creates. So with many a flourish, twist and turn, enhanced by the odd spot of complicated juggling, they turn their considerable talents to the demanding process of making tea. But this is tea in a form unlike anything you and I have ever tasted.

Dilmah’s International Tea Sommelier competition was built around the concept of encouraging in both hospitality professionals and those they serve a deeper, truer appreciation of tea. Though one of the world’s most favoured beverages, it is still under-appreciated, despite having the depth and variety of wine. Ironically, this combination of tea’s popularity with ignorance about what makes good tea, has long allowed transnational corporations to make a killing without providing much in the way of quality, explained Merrill J. Fernando, the founder of Dilmah.

Intent on changing this state of affairs, the company has chosen to educate people on what good tea really is – and the Tea Sommelier competition will take them many steps closer to achieving that goal. The first of its kind in the world, the competition got off to a running start at Water’s Edge early this week where the Sri Lanka Tea Sommelier was chosen after a long drawn out competition.

Representatives from 30 resorts and hotels took part in the event, each trying to outshine the other in the creation of a cocktail, a mocktail and a very traditional cuppa. They were judged on the basis of four categories that included the actual utilisation of tea and the resulting flavour, the participant’s creativity and innovation as well as his or her presentation, showmanship, working technique and timing.

Judging the competition were three men – the head of the Singapore Bartenders Association, a wine sommelier and finally a tea taster. “Tea is the highlight,” said Chef Gerard Mendis, Chairman of the Chefs Guild of Lanka, going on to add that it was not only very affordable, it could also be used as a herb to successfully enhance the flavour of both food and drinks. This competition would itself result in the creation of 30 unique drinks, courtesy its 30 participants, he said.

A.M.J Adhikari, from the Taj Samudra triumphed overall. Having previously won at the Marie Brizzard Bartender’s competition held last year, Ms. Adhikari, says that she chose to give her drinks a predominantly fruity flavour as was appropriate for a tropical country like Sri Lanka. Her choice of tea – Spicy Berry and Nilagama Estate - was based on their strength, as the teas she picked would need to be potent enough to compete with alcohol and dominate.

Similar considerations dictated the choice of tea for R. Dissanayake from Chaya Village who came second. Using several ingredients including apple pulp and vanilla flavoured tea, Mr. Dissanyake said that he tasted more than 20 types of tea before he chose his base. In third place was Rolando Coonghe from Hilton Colombo.

Ms. Adhikari will head on to the Asia Pacific Dilmah Sommelier Tea Competition, and then hopefully to the International Dilmah Sommelier Competition in Poland.

Top to the page

Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.