28 Jun // Sri Lanka: hello from Colombo

It's 30C in Colombo right now, but I'm safely sitting in air-conditioned bliss in my 3-bedroom apartment at the Hilton Residences, right in the centre of the city. This morning was when the action kicked off, with the Dilmah Real High Tea Challenge global final media briefing. More about that shortly. 

There are two teams from New Zealand competing, and one of the four judges is Simon Gault, also a kiwi. All of us from New Zealand flew over together, leaving Auckland on Friday morning. Here's a video with a bit more from our trip. There were some excess baggage issues (and a hefty bill!) given that all competing teams from around the world have to bring their own crockery, table settings, tea cups, martini glasses, and a whole heap of local produce. We got on to our flight with the sun streaming in, and I made it to Singapore thanks to a medicinal brandy and dry, a window seat, an obligatory Singapore Sling, and most of Lena Dunham's book. I got through the flight no thanks to the lady beside me who nestled in under my armpit. There must have been sleeping pills involved. 

With three hours in Singapore's Changi Airport, I did little more than purchase a new lipstick at MAC (Viva Glam Miley Cyrus pink) and have a martini. It was then a three and a half hour flight to Colombo, and thanks to no one sitting next to me, my travel narcolepsy kicked in and I fell asleep before take off and slept all the way until landing. I left the rest of the New Zealand team at the airport for a different hotel, and was welcomed at about 1am to a fresh pot of tea in my room, and a bowl of tropical fruit. Dream result

Saturday was pretty much a free day. I had a traditional Sri Lankan hopper for breakfast, complete with plenty of sambal, some buffalo curd, and a cup of tea. It was delicious. We investigated the Kiwi teams unpacking their goodies (only a couple of breakages to report) and then thanks to an enthusiastic tuktuk driver named Wilfred, I unwittingly was taken on an hour long guided tour of the city, which included multiple temple visits and trying to get me to buy a signature Ceylonese saphire off his mate. Tempting, but ever so slightly out of my price range. This morning I was awake at about 5.30am, and after using a hotel gym for approximately the first time in my life, I had a dragon fruit (best thing ever) and a cup of single estate tea and then got ready for the media briefing. 

There are 21 teams competing in the global final, and this is the inaugural year. The entrants are at the whim of the four judges - Simon Gault, Bernt Uber, Peter Kuruvita, and Dilhan C. Fernando, son of Dilmah founder Merrill J. Fernando, an amazingly philanthropic man, who I was lucky enough to meet today. Each team consists of a chef and a front of house person, and each has won their respective national competitions over the last couple of years. They were introduced today, welcomed in by children from the MJF charitable foundation, a charity aiming to alleviate poverty in Sri Lanka founded by Mr Fernando and supported by Dilmah. I'll be learning more about that over the next few days.

Team New Zealand!

The teams start competing on 1 July, and tomorrow we're flying up to one of the tea estates for a good look around. In the meantime, you can follow my adventures on instagram, and remember I'm blogging on taste.co.nz too. There are plenty of videos going up of the New Zealand teams (and me!) in action on the Dilmah NZ youtube channel, so you can follow it all. Dilmah is a small player in the global tea game, and it's pretty cool they've put this event on for a truly global audience. They are all about bringing back the respect that tea deserves, and encouraging us as consumers to learn about how our tea is produced, so that we know we're getting the best tasting stuff, and so we'll be more willing to pay a fair price, whih will enable the industry to be sustained. 

It's just started raining, but that is not stopping me heading off to the pool. More soon!