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The tradition of high tea has been given a contemporary spin with the creation of experiences such as "high coffee", "high cheese" and even "high beer". As well as enjoying three-tiered trays of complementary treats, you can visit a coffee plantation, meet a small-batch brewer or observe cheese-making at a working dairy farm. Here are some of the best experiences to try.
FOR COFFEE CONNOISSEURS
There's something about the ritual of being served high coffee in an elegant environment that makes an afternoon of High Coffee at Haven at The Westin Perth feel like a super indulgent way to get your caffeine fix. Executive chef Paul Gaspa calls it a social occasion that includes coffee-flavoured treats such as hazelnut coffee cake and Irish whiskey cream petit gateaux, served alongside espresso martinis.
Gaspa says the High Coffee experience at Haven also includes signature savoury treats such as a coffee club sandwich with chicken, bacon, egg and coffee-infused mayonnaise. "High Coffee allows us to showcase Five Senses' coffee blend they make exclusively for The Westin Perth," says Gaspa. Cost: From $55 per person, including unlimited coffee.
Indulge in sweet treats and an aromatic caffeine hit at High Coffee at Haven,The Westin Perth.
Lovers of good coffee can also learn how to get the best from their beans during a Coffee Cupping Class at The Grounds of Alexandria. Training manager and licensed Q Grader, Andrew Hunt, guides intimate groups on a sensory experience focusing on everything from the bean's mouthfeel and flavour to brightness and aroma. You can also learn all there is to know about making a cup of coffee under the watchful gaze of a past Australian Barista Champion Hugh Kelly who leads Barista Courses at ONA Coffee in Canberra.
Participants in the hour-long From the Crop to the Cup tour at Zentveld's in the Byron Bay hinterland will gain an understanding of how coffee is grown sustainably and observe various stages of production. The tour of the family farm – established in the early 1980s – finishes with a brew and a view over the plantation.
FOR LOVERS OF CRAFT BEER
Forget tiered trays of cucumber sandwiches and think two-litre beer towers of Alby, Gage Road or Nail MVP matched with a mini BBQ during High Beer @ The Best Brew Bar & Kitchen, Four Points by Sheraton, Perth. Head chef at The Best Brew Bar & Kitchen Brian Grunewald says High Beer celebrates Australia's emerging craft beer scene and is somewhat of an ode to the amber ale.
In addition to putting the spotlight on Perth's craft beer scene, which is booming, the "High Beer" experience at the Four Points Perth eatery is complemented by a beer-centric menu that includes dishes such as beer-glazed pork ribs, beer, vegemite and cheese pretzels and pulled beef brioche sliders.
Gather 'round a mini BBQ with mates and enjoy the finest beer that High Beer has to offer.
"There is nothing dainty about High Beer: it's big food served with beer. The locals love it. We serve it in a mini BBQ and give them mini tongs to lift off the grill so there's a bit of theatre and interaction involved," he says. Cost: from $49 for two including two schooners of any beer.
Beer nerds in Sydney can also learn beer appreciation by having a one-on-one at the rustic cellar door at Hairyman Brewery in the back blocks of suburban Caringbah. Brewer Andy Orrell is involved in every part of the production process, from milling the grain to adding the hops by hand. The brewery is open to the public from Thursday to Sunday and includes visits from a rotating roster of food trucks. Hairyman Brewery uses Australian and New Zealand hops to produce small-batch brews such as Cory's Claim and Follet's Fable.
FOR CHEESE AFICIONADOS
Head to High Cheese at The Westin Melbourne and you'll find yourself celebrating cheeses that range from a gooey baked Normandy Camembert to a brie redolent of truffles. In line with the tradition of high tea, the "High Cheese" menu of sweet and savoury treats arrives on tiered trays.
Curated by chef Michael Greenlaw in collaboration with Anthony Femia, of Prahran Market's Maker & Monger, it includes Swiss Gruyere Vieux Gougères with burnt green leek and Marcel Petite Comté Réservation custard tarts. The menu also includes sweets such as chocolate parfait with Brillat Savarin frais (a white-crusted brie) and raspberry jam."High Cheese" happens daily from 5pm in Allegro Restaurant and in the Lobby Lounge on weekends from 11am to 4pm. Cost is $70 with suggested wine pairings priced by the glass. Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort on the Gold Coast also offers a "High Cheese" experience in the Pearls Bar overlooking the lagoon and Pacific Ocean.
The only way to truly experience cheese is at High Cheese at the Westin Melbourne.
Gallo Dairyland on the Atherton Tablelands is run by the Gallo family in the lacquered green heart of the Atherton Tablelands. The cheese factory on the working farm is a kind of theme park for cheese and chocolate that tell of the region's terroir and rich volcanic soils. Visitors are welcome to view the daily milking of the herd, which includes Friesian and Jersey milking cows, between 3 and 4pm. You can also see how cheese is made at the working factory, best known for its marinated fetta, blue cheese and camembert.
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