Dilmah's 2007 Real High Tea Challenge set the stage for a global tea revolution, which has now evolved into something even greater. Dilmah's "Always Teatime" is more than a tea revolution… it's a teatime revolution, which debuted in Sri Lanka at the 17th edition of the Culinary Art Food Expo 2017 on 28th and 29th July 2017. The expo, organized by the Chefs' Guild of Lanka, is the country's fastest-growing professional trade exhibition for the hospitality, food and beverage sector. This is one of the biggest culinary exhibitions in Asia, recognized by the Chefs' Guild of Lanka affiliated to the World Association of Chefs' Societies (WACS), which has a membership of 110 countries.

The Dilmah Always Teatime Challenge has tea at its core. It is a contemporary interpretation of tea designed to emphasize the perfect synergy that tea offers in the morning, afternoon and evening. That synergy is based on the natural goodness in tea, for tea is uniquely rich in natural antioxidants and science confirms the ancient wisdom shared by Emperor Shennung, credited with the discovery of tea 5000 years ago, that tea is a herb that heals, protects and inspires.

Always Teatime goes beyond, for this contest is also about the pleasure in tea. Linked to the reasons that drove Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando to establish the world's first genuinely ethical producer brand and to offer tea handpicked and packed fresh at source, it is also about the enjoyment of tea as the natural luxury that it is. This second but equal dimension to the unique healthfulness in tea is an exploration of terroir in tea. The emphasis Dilmah places on the purity of origin in tea gives each tea a unique personality, with its appearance, aroma, flavour, texture and strength directly linked to the garden in which it was grown. The selection of Dilmah teas and infusions offered for the challenge formed a palette with which 16 teams of bartenders and chefs, from star class Sri Lankan hotels, crafted tea inspired creations and pairings for the morning, afternoon and evening.

The contest was judged by Bernd Uber - Presiding Judge, Black Hat Chef and Legend of the Food Service Industry, John Clancy - Education Director of WorldChefs, and Dilhan C. Fernando - Tea Judge and son of Dilmah founder Merrill J. Fernando. The trio of judges also assessed the Always Teatime Challenge - Online, which launched globally in May of the same year. John Clancy, commenting on the concept, said that, "I think it's a good omen for tea in the future and WorldChefs are delighted to be part of this."

The Judges evaluated every aspect of the Always Teatime experience presented by each contestant, with an emphasis on table layout, theme, rationale and its spoken presentation - the explanation and engagement offered to the 'guest' during the assessment; the respect for tea in relation to provenance, character and information shared in menu, theme and table elements, and spoken introduction. Whilst the judges evaluated the guest experience across every sense, the accuracy of the brewing of the perfect tea, and the respect for tea in tea inspired food and drink was additionally considered. The judges assessed the relevance of the teas and pairings for the occasion - morning, afternoon and evening - and the rationale, culinary, beverage and general creativity in each aspect of the presentation.

The interpretation of morning, afternoon and evening as well as the rationale for the use of a specific tea was very individualistic, as was seen at the content. The morning tea parings were strong and bracing, whilst evenings included lighter and gentler teas and infusions. Contestants understood each occasion, and crafted the guest experience around their personal experience in tea, with cultural and historical context, and produced an engaging experience that was defined by tea, but extended by quality food and beverage in harmonious pairing, with a story that took the experience to a positive, experiential level.

The Dilmah Always Teatime Challenge - Sri Lanka Live lasted 2 days before 3 teams were able to proudly take home professional tea pairing, tea gastronomy and tea mixology awards. Dilhan C. Fernando commented on the final showdown that, "…what we have experienced in the last couple of days has been the most incredible tea inspired experience. We're looking at Sri Lanka's unique culture - we're looking at the tradition of eating hoppers and mung beans in the morning - and we're bringing them into the 21st century. We've had tea inspired contestants that have presented their cultures and personal experiences of tea, but always around the perfect cup. We've had traditional dishes reinterpreted for the 21st century - everything from a simple panna cotta with tea, to wonderful combinations of duck paired with spicy chais - making for beautiful tea inspired occasions."

B. Fernando and Nirukshi Vitharana from Heritance Negombo won the 'Most Outstanding Always Teatime Trophy'. The pairing for the morning included "Morgan Full Bite"- a combination of an omelette, grilled tomato, juicy pork bacon, button mushrooms, hash brown and baked beans on top of a fresh piece of sandwich bread; and "Sweet Glory"- assorted mini croissants, Danishes, sticky buns, brioche morning glory muffins with chocolate doughnuts, paired with a hot cup of Dilmah English Breakfast Tea. The afternoon pairing included "Pumpernickel Salmon Tart"- smoked pumpernickel bread served with salmon tart and orange spaghetti; and "Crunchy Exotic Compote"- exotic compote with passion and mango cream served with almond roche finnacia, paired with Sour Citrus Tea Mocktail infused with Dilmah Elderflower with Cinnamon and Apple. The evening pairing included "Ambulthiyaled Duck Pinwheel Sandwich"- duck ambulthiyal served with caramelised onions, butter, chives and rocca leaves; and "Sweet Citrus"- a citrus consommé served with ricotta ravioli and Amaretti Cookies, paired with Spicy Bonne-soir Evening Tea infused with Dilmah Ceylon Gold Tea.

Rushan Arffin and S. Weerasinghe from Cinnamon Grand Colombo won the title of the 'Best Tea Inspired Pairing', for their afternoon pairing of Peach & Passion Clafoutis and Honey Mini Lamb Pie with Mint Chutney, paired with "Lady Elegance" mocktail infused with Dilmah Blueberry & Pomegranate Tea.

Dilini Peiris and Thushara Sanjaya from the Hilton Colombo won the title of the 'Best Tea Inspired Beverage' for their "t-Berry Injection"- blueberry compote and Hennessy V.S Cognac infused with Dilmah Blueberry and Pomegranate Tea, and Dilmah Peppermint, Cinnamon and Clove Tea. It was paired with a Seafood Tortilla Cone made with Seafood, Gruyère, Pepper Relish in Corn, and Tomato Compote infused with Dilmah Peppermint, Cinnamon and Clove Tea.

The proof is in the pudding and the success of the Dilmah Always Teatime Challenge, live and online, brought a globalised teatime revolution in tea and food pairing, gastronomy and mixology to the F&B forefront. Black Hat Chef Bernd Uber commented that, "…this competition will grow around the globe. It is not the High Tea that we did over the last few years; different food, different teas, different taste perceptions." The first global live challenge is set to roll-out in the near future.

Please click here to view the Videos of winning pairings
Please click here to view the Images of winning pairings

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