Turning over a new leaf

Trip of a lifetime: Josie Geimecke, left, and Jaimie Stodler

MasterChef NZ finalist Jaimie Stodler is taking an unusual tea break.

The owner of Queenstown cupcake shop Cup & Cake is off to Sri Lanka to get coached by experts at Dilmah School of Tea after scooping gold at a culinary competition last year.

She and pastry chef Josie Geimecke left on Thursday.

While there, Stodler has volunteered to host a project for women experiencing hardship.

“It’s an entrepreneur programme – mentoring women who, for whatever reason, face hardship and have no means of income.”

It might help some Sri Lankan women create a livelihood.

Stodler: “As a single mother and business owner that is extremely special to me.

“Spending time with children and their families will be amazing.”

Stodler and Geimecke are volunteering with the MJF Charitable Foundation – set up by Dilmah founder Merrill J Fernando.

They’ll help parents whose kids have cerebral palsy, showing them how to cook soft-food diets.

They’ll also work on a kiddies programme for underprivileged youngsters, teaching them about food and well-being.

Also on the agenda, the duo will volunteer at an elephant sanctuary.

Stodler reckons the experience will make her think about how she cooks and runs her Searle Lane business.

“It will definitely change the food I make and hopefully create opportunities.

“I will be hobnobbing with extremely gifted and talented people, including the charity founder Merrill Fernando.”

It’ll be tough to leave behind son Oran, seven – whom she would like to take to Sri Lanka later in the year for more volunteering – but she believes it’s important for people to step out of their comfort zone.

“I don’t idle well,” Stodler says.

“This will be getting my hands dirty as much as possible while still working.”

Among all the volunteering there will of course be time for a cuppa. The ladies will be schooled on everything tea – from history, ethics, planting, manufacturing and food-matching to tea ‘mixology’ and making the perfect brew.