On May 7th, 2016 the Midwest Tea Festival celebrated its second anniversary, offering the Midwest a chance to come to Kansas City and explore the varied world of tea! The festival is a place for those new to tea to learn more about the leaf, or for those who are long familiar with the drink to expand their collection and interact with fellow tea lovers. And it was certainly grand affair, featuring over 25 vendors, 21 tasting sessions, and many classes and presentations. There was even a secret tea tasting organized by the members of Steepster that were in attendance!
Of the presentations at the tea festival, the most anticipated by far was the Japanese Tea Ceremony Demonstration by Ayako Mizumura of Bimi Bakery – the room her presentation filled up in no time. The presentation not only covered the Japanese Tea Ceremony and Matcha, but also went into detail about importance of host guest relations, specifically on how to make the guest comfortable during ceremony. An example given was the placement of the kettle, during the winter it is kept close to keep the guests warm, while in the summer months it is kept farther away to prevent guests from overheating. So much attention to detail is placed onto every aspect of the tea ceremony, clearly showing the artform and intention exhibited. At the end of the demonstration, Ayako prepared a bowl of Matcha, and a lucky volunteer from the audience was given the chance to taste it.
Another of the presentations was held by James Orrock of Single Origin Tea, An Introduction to US Tea. This was a wonderful presentation covering several tea gardens in the United States (Waverly Estate in Florida, Fairhope Tea Estate in Alabama, and Coeur d’ Alene Tea Estate In Idaho) while also discussing the US Tea Growers League. James also discussed the hardships facing by American farmers, such as reluctance to work together, lack of botanical knowledge, and (of course) learning which tea varietals grow best in which regions. This is a new crop with an opportunity to flourish greatly, especially with the growing obsession with tea in the west. One of the highlights of this presentation was the ability to sample the very unique tasting tea from Fairhope Tea Estate.
Guests who registered online were also given the option to pick a tasting cafe, and there were many to choose from: exploring Matcha, Taiwanese teas, Puerh, White tea, experimental teas… you name it and there was probably a half hour session devoted to tasting it. I picked the Spectrum of Taiwanese Teas held by Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company where we were treated to Twisted Green (a Bi Luo Chun Green tea), Shan Lin Xi Winter (a rolled Oolong), and Alishan Black (a rather unique black tea from Alishan). These teas put the porcelain tasting cup that came with admission to very good use.
The show floor was filled with vendors, including local favorites Shang Tea who specializes in White Teas and other Fujian offerings, Pi Ceramics for the teaware obsessed, Anna’s Tea Shop whose speciality is lovely blends and themed tea parties, and Hugo Teas who has handcrafted teas with an ‘Age of Explorers’ feel.
But it wasn’t just a local affair. From as far away as Florida and New York came great vendors such as Liquid Proust, a blender with flair for the unusual, Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company, whose speciality is a wide selection of Taiwanese Teas, The Dragon’s Treasure, a company who blends their love of tea and anime, Harney and Sons who is a classic staple in many tea collections, and Tealet, who specializes in Direct Trade tea and tea education. If buying tea-themed publications was more up your alley, the booths of Shona Patel, Tea Time Magazine, or Bruce Richardson, ensured you were not left out. Even the event’s organizer, Nicole Burriss, had a tea tasting book for sale, which seems appropriate given that the festival’s charitable partner was Literacy Kansas City.
No matter your level of interest in tea, there was something at the festival for you – and will be again, next year!