Melbourne has been heralded as the coffee capital of the world for so long now, that often it feels like us tea lovers get forgotten about! So when the team at the World Tea Brewing Championships reached out recently, and invited Uppma to compete at their event at the Melbourne Fine Food Expo this year, we put down our cup of chai and paid attention!
The format was simple, but intense. First up, Uppma had to prepare a specialty tea, brewed to perfection, for the four eager judges (experts in the field of fine tea in Australia). As if by way of the universe, Uppma had just recently returned from a tea-trip to India where she fell in love with a smokey, fine, black tea which had been dried over smoking pine needles. The judges were very impressed to try such a tea - as Lapsang Souchong from China may be the only smoked black tea they had tried in their tea-tasting travels.
Secondly, the competitor could offer the judges a Signature Beverage. Using a base of tea, Uppma could do anything she may have fancied to prepare a brew to wow those looking on. Uppma knew going in to this that she would be competing against some very strong competitors from the world of specialty tea. Aged puerhs could be offered up, iced first-picked Shincha from Japan...where would our humble, authentic, chai fit in the mix? Sticking to her roots, Uppma authentically prepared our 11 Spice Chai over a gas flame, whilst relaying stories of her Grandfather in Punjab and the chai wallah’s and walli’s all over India, preparing this national staple for the masses.
Any one would have been satisfied simply with the theatrics of this; however Uppma wanted to push the bar just a little (if you’ve ever met Uppma, this would not surprise you one bit!). So sitting aside each serve of chai, judges were treated to chai-candied silver needles (a long leaf, white tea), spiced butter biscuits, and deep fried spiced & savoury black tea leaves. Oh, and did we mention the attempt to serve the chai under a glass cloche with smoke billowing out? That last bit didn’t quite make it, due to time restraints, but boy - what a chai show!
The judges were impressed, as were the lookers on, and when Uppma’s name was called up as a finalist - chai walli’s all over the world rejoiced! First and second place were not to be, however, the THIRD PLACE trophy that Uppma was awarded is now very elegantly taking pride of place on the mantelpiece!
On a side note...As if our tea geekery couldn’t be any more exhilarated following Uppmas’ seat at the winners table, we also had the opportunity to test-drive the new GT2 Tea-espresso machine from Klub Tech, Taiwan. Synesso and Slayer step aside (coffee nerds will know what we’re talking about here) - this beauty can be installed on the bench top of any cafe, and with settings particular to tea brewing, the perfect drop can be extracted time after time, using a group head and handle seen only (until now) in the coffee world! We couldn’t help ourselves, and set about extracting chai shots and steaming milk to offer the crowd a taste of Chai Walli’s chai “latte” - perhaps even converting a few coffee-snobs to our way of chai!