Abu Dhabi, UAE 18th April, 2013, The three judges of the first Dilmah Real High Tea Challenge in the Middle East - World Association of Chefs' Societies Judges Bernd Uber and Uwe Micheel and Tea Judge Dilhan C. Fernando - tasted over 120 tea inspired high tea dishes and 75 cups and glasses of tea, tea cocktails and mocktails over 2 days of assessing contestants in the pioneering tea gastronomy initiative. Concluding the final session in Abu Dhabi yesterday, Bernd Uber and Dilhan C. Fernando remarked on the quality and creativity of the presentations, which was unprecedented for the first stage of the Challenge in any country since its inception in 2007.

The contest is a global quest to explore a new and contemporary definition of high tea. It was launched by Merrill J. Fernando, the Founder of family tea company Dilmah, in 2007. He joined his son Dilhan on the first day of the Real High Tea Challenge in the UAE, and shared the reasons for his lifelong devotion to tea with culinary professionals at the event.

'Real Tea is a herb that is naturally good for you, it is pure and it is luxurious, being handpicked and infinite in the variety of its taste, texture and strength. I devoted my life to sharing the pleasure in this wonderful herb, and my wish to share the success of my family brand with the underprivileged.' Merrill J. Fernando was the first tea producer to bring tea that was handpicked, made in the traditional style and branded at source in Sri Lanka, direct to tea drinkers around the world.

His struggle against vested interests took nearly four decades although when his Dilmah brand first reached customers 25 years ago it represented a paradigm shift. Until then Ceylon's famous tea was sold in bulk to benefit traders in developed nations. His story demonstrates the potential of genuinely ethical, grower owned businesses to transform primary industries like tea, coffee, cocoa and others. The Challenge requires participants to understand the terroir of tea from different regions, demonstrate their understanding of perfect brewing, to research and analyse tea pairing with food, to use tea as an ingredient and to present a genuinely tea inspired high tea. The judges emphasized respect for purity and the heritage of tea, whilst rewarding original and insightful elements.

The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management team won the Dubai round of the Challenge whilst the St. Regis Saadiyat Island was victorious in Abu Dhabi. Both teams, Michael Kitts and Haresh Mohinani from the Emirates Academy and Prasad Kudagoda and Daniela Santobuono from St. Regis, will visit Dilmah Tea Gardens in Sri Lanka and enjoy a holiday there as their prize. The overall Dilmah Real High Tea Challenge UAE Winner is the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management who will go through to the next round of the Challenge, the Global final due to be held in 2014. The Emirates Academy team was commended for their emphasis on simplicity, and their well researched and elegantly crafted presentation. The technical aspects of brewing and the quality of cuisine as well as the respect accorded to tea in all their dishes, pairings and tea gastronomy, was key to their success.

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