Laurent and Camille from New Zealand win Dilmah Real High Tea Global Challenge that drew 710 contestants from world over
Global competition effectively showcases for the culinary world there is a new and terrific ingredient - tea
By Sarah Hannan
The journey of eight years which witnessed 710 contestants conduct tea ceremonies incorporating their heritage and knowledge about all things tea, shook up 21 flavoursome teams from 14 countries for the Dilmah Real High Tea Global Challenge.
Regarded as the toughest tea challenge of the world, last week saw the 21st century global champion of high tea, Laurent Loudeac and Camille Furminieux representing Museum Art Hotel from New Zealand win the unique Leaf and Artisan Trophy of Dilmah.
Marking the historic celebration that were to unfold the 21 teams were invited on stage, along with the President Maithripala Sirisena; Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe; Judges Simon Gault and Peter Kuruwita, Dilhan C. Fernando; Merrill J. Fernando and Malik J. Fernando The Leaf and Artisan trophy was unveiled by President Sirisena after which they remained on stage for a group photograph.
In his opening remarks Dilhan C Fernando explained that tea, an herb that is uniquely rich in natural goodness was used for medicinal purposes in the first four millennia. Only in the 1,600 it became the beverage that is celebrated today.
In the present day it has evolved into a luxurious indulgence with varying tea ceremonies conducted around the world. In a quest the rediscover these traditions and cultures Dilmah Real High Tea Challenge sailed across the world to witness the fine arts of tea gastronomy and mixology that presented a multidimensional experience.
Quoting from the British comedy Monty Python, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in his speech stated; “Make tea not war! I believe it applies to Merrill who himself is a revolution. He also commended Merrill J Fernando for the efforts in using tea in gastronomy and further stated that the process of tea gastronomy needs to be continued. Moreover he recollected how the Dilmah brand was established and combined it with the boutique hotels which are known as Tea Trails.
Speaking of the participants Wickremesinghe noted that just as the planters at the time mastered the plantation of tea, the chefs and mixologists that took part in the challenge will bring tea in to the day to day life, in to the food we consume, to the teas we drink and is one way that will make the industry healthy.
The journey of real high tea
Delivering the Founder’s speech Merrill J. Fernando thanked each and every one, who was part of the eight year-long challenge. He also appreciated the efforts put forward by his son Dilhan who he recognised as a specialist in innovations and noted that within the next five years tea will be in a whole new level.
“This is the most significant event in the history of tea, not just Sri Lanka, Ceylon tea but all over the world,” declared Fernando adding that tea is now on a different journey and Dilmah has taken an innovative path.
He said that via the High Tea Global Challenge, Dilmah has shown the world what can be done to bring tea to the fore of gastronomy. This endeavour will change the world of tea going forward, he added.
Dilmah Founder also said that greater use of tea and better income for the industry will help in leading poorer segments of the industry out of poverty.
Judges Simon Gault and Peter Kuruwita added their comments about the competition and informed that the presiding judge Bernd Uber was unable to attend the ceremony as he was taken ill after judging every single competition up until Friday.
“This has been a fantastic competition,” said Gault amidst applause from contestants and their supporters.
“For the culinary world there is a new and terrific ingredient. That is tea,” he added.
Kuruwita listed – you can do many thing with it: you can use to replace wine, as a marinade, as a flavour, as an infusion, you can make beer with it, you can steam with it, you can smoke it, you can turn it in to salt, you can make liquor with it, you can ferment it, you can pekoe it, you can steep it.
Representing the World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS) better known as World Chefs was its Managing Director Ragnar Fridriksson in his speech he elaborated on the mission of raising the standards of the culinary profession. He also thanked the Dilmah family for being a partner and for their contribution towards the culinary profession by providing not only the quality of the product, but the leadership and the thought of giving back to the business, sharing the passion, sharing the simple things in life which is also what cooking is about.
Explaining the judging criteria, Dilhan C. Fernando opined that the contestants were put through the most demanding tea challenge in the world and were judged under WACS criteria. “We demanded that they understand the provenance of the leaf, the exact texture, flavour, character, strength, the entire personality of the teas. We demanded that they understand the marriage of tea with different types of food in relation to those aspects. The contestants had to learn the characteristic of tea when used in relation to food as an ingredient, not a pairing but an ingredient.”
He further noted that the contestants were able to create magic and there were amazing mixology created. They had to understand how tea would behave with spirits and under different temperatures. How the ingredient would behave in certain cooking styles.
The competition was judged under a point scheme. Anyone who gained points between 90-99 across the 12 criteria including Table Layout, Presentation, Understanding of the Product, Pairing and a series of different criteria would receive Gold.100 points would be awarded Gold with Distinction which rarely in case of tea has never happened one exception in a consumer competition. Between points 80-90 it is a Silver medal and if they score in the 70s it would be a Bronze medal. Below 70s it would be a certificate.
It was great to see all teams were awarded medals, certificates and some went on to win special awards and bagging the overall awards. Dilhan also stated that each of the participants were national winners in the respective years from the 14 countries, therefore regardless of the medals and trophies they are the best representatives of Real High Tea in a global level.
Pix by Samantha Perera