January 30th and 31st, people from across the Greater Toronto Area flocked to see what tea is all about at the 4th annual Toronto Tea Festival. Founded in 2013, the Toronto Tea Festival is the largest event of its kind in Canada, and over 40 different companies showed up to sell their wares.
There were independent vendors like festival founder Tao Tea Leaf; the dapper folks behind T by Daniel; newer Toronto-based sellers like Genuine Tea, Chaiwala, and Momo Tea; festival regulars like Capital Teas Limited and Basilur; and the national chain David’s Tea, among others. Ceramics vendors also made an appearance, like Secret Teatime, which makes stoneware Chanoyu cups and bowls by hand.
For those who wanted to delve deeper into tea’s secrets, there were organizations like the Tea Guild of Canada, Tea Journey Magazine, the Tea Association of Canada, and the World Tea Podcast. For the truly adventurous, there were also tea tasting contests where participants had to taste six different teas and identify the type of tea, country of origin, and varietal, with prizes for the winners (your humble author did very poorly, getting only 15 points out of a possible 36).
Finally, there were also several presenters at the event, discussing various aspects of tea. Here’s a quick look as some of the presentations.
Pu’erh’s Roots: Caravan Fuel to Boutique Idol — Jeff Fuchs, Jalam Teas
Part tea vendor, part documentarian, Jeff Fuchs has become known for his unusual travels within the tea industry — Fuchs claims to be the first person to have walked the full length of the Tea Horse Road. His talk looked not only at the current status of indigenous puer production in Yunnan, but also at how the current thirst for puer has led unscrupulous tactics to increase profit. Fuchs’s talk discussed ancient puer production techniques, myths surrounding puer aging (according to him, chasing after some fabled 50-year-old tea is useless), and more.
Appreciation of the Leaf: How to Appraise Chinese Tea — Zhen Lu, Zhen Tea
One of the people behind Zhen Tea, Zhen Lu’s talk was a primer for those new to the different types of Chinese tea. Her talk discussed not only the different types of tea produced in China, but also their production methods, the naming conventions behind different varieties, and how different brewing techniques result in different flavours being produced. Lu also discussed some of the difficulties found in translating Chinese tea names into English, and why the same tea might have multiple different names.
The Many Ways of Tea: Its Path Around the World — Linda Gaylard, The Tea Stylist
The history of world trade is intimately tied up with the history of tea, from the Tea Horse Road to the introduction and widespread adoption of tea Europe to such dark chapters in tea’s history like the Opium Wars. Linda Gaylard provided a fascinating mini-lecture on the history of the tea trade across the world. Sharing much of the information found in her debut work The Tea Book, she talked about tea’s distribution across the world and how tea culture has spread to different countries, from austere and dignified ceremonies in eastern Asia to the strong, heavily-sweetened teas of East Frisia.
Cover Photo Credit: Rita Fong