By Ante Bruning

Image by Alana Dimou

Nothing beats a good cup of tea. Regardless of whether you’re an Earl Grey drinker, an English Breakfast enthusiast, or more of a Matcha master, there’s one thing we can all agree upon – tea is awesome.

This Sunday 21 August, The Sydney Tea Festival returns for its third year running. Set at Eveleigh’s Carriageworks, the festival makes for the perfect winter outing. Featuring a tea market and a program of ticketed workshops, it’s enough to quench the thirst of tea drinkers everywhere.

In anticipation of the event, Vertigo editor Ante Bruning spoke with Renee Creer, co-founder of Sydney Tea Festival and owner of Perfect South Green Tea

Bruning: In your opinion, what makes the Sydney Tea Festival unique?

Creer: It’s the largest event for specialty tea purveyors and tea lovers in Australia. On the one day, you can explore the best of Australia’s tea industry and taste dozens of teas and tisanes from all over the world, under the one roof, in the heart of the city.

Bruning: The Sydney Tea Festival debuted in 2014. How has it grown and developed since then?

Creer: The event has grown very quickly! In the second year festival attendance numbers doubled, going from 5,000 to 10,000 visitors, which was amazing. So we can accommodate everyone, this year we’ve moved to a bigger venue within Carriageworks, which has more than doubled our floorspace of previous events. We’ve added an extra 30 stallholders, bringing the total up to 80. We’re always trying to refine and include elements that will appeal to festival-goers, whether that’s a new tasting cup design, new workshops or tea-inspired performances.

Bruning: In the process of curating this year’s Sydney Tea Festival, what have been some of the challenges?

Creer: The most difficult thing is not being able to accommodate everyone who applies for a stall. We have limited floorspace and always have a long waiting list.

Bruning: What is the most rewarding part for you in curating the event?

Creer: Providing a platform for tea businesses to share their teas, stories, knowledge and passion.  Also seeing how pumped people are in the lead up to the event, and then on the day, just watching and hearing how into tea people are. It’s awesome.

Bruning: Is there a particular feature or element that you are most looking forward to?

Creer: Definitely the Matcha: One Host, One Guest, One Moment performance by Adam Wojcinski and students. It’s a modern interpretation of a Japanese tea ceremony that will be performed continuously throughout the day, in a purpose built Tea Cube, located in the market place.  Festival-goers will be invited into the Tea Cube to share a bowl of matcha tea, one-on-one. It will be a very personal and meditative experience.

Bruning: In what ways do you think this type of event complements the program of Carriageworks events?

Creer: Carriageworks is committed to reflecting the social and cultural diversity of Australia through their program of contemporary events and artistic works. It’s also recently reinvigorated its focus on food events. The Sydney Tea Festival is both a social and cultural event that aims to present tea in a modern context, while also paying respect to tea’s rich history, so we feel like Carriageworks is a great fit in terms of our shared positioning and vision.

Bruning: In what ways do you think this event adds to the cultural life of Sydney?

Creer: Tea is such a multi-generational, multi-cultural drink. It attracts all kinds of people, which is one of the things that makes it so special.  Tea is also a very social drink. It brings people together to share time, stories and rituals in daily life.

Bruning: The theme of the upcoming issue of Vertigo is called ‘Antiques Roadshow’. It’s all about backstories, art or objects that are reminiscent of the past, featuring ideas such as family and traditions. In what ways do you think this event connects with this theme?

Creer: In the context of the festival, many of the tea stallholders come from multi-cultural backgrounds where tea played a significant part in their family life growing up. Through their businesses and involvement with the festival, they share their culture and family traditions, whether that’s through sourcing teas from their family’s country of origin, blending teas based on family recipes, or using ingredients, like herbs or spices, that are from their culture or country.

Also, this interview is reminiscent of my past! I did my Bachelor of Communication (Public Communication) at UTS and during my final year of university I launched my first public event (Australia’s first camera phone photography exhibition) and was interviewed by Vertigo about it. Ten years later, I’m being interviewed again about another public event.

Bruning: What makes you so passionate about tea and wanting to inspire a love of tea in others?

Creer: I love tea because it’s an adventure. Most people haven’t even scratched the surface of what tea is and can be. It’s such a diverse, tasty, creative, interesting, unusual and adaptable drink. There is always something new to discover and explore.

The Sydney Tea Festival is on this Sunday 21 August. For more information on the festival, workshops, and ticketing, visit sydneyteafestival.com.au.