I’ve wanted to attend the Toronto Tea Festival since before I moved to Toronto. And for two years I’ve missed it… but at the end of January 2015, I finally made it there. And it was glorious.
A room filled with tea vendors. Equipped with a small glass tasting cup, I was ready.
I didn’t think the Toronto Reference Library could get any better, but adding in a whole auditorium of tea vendors and filling it with tea enthusiasts? I was in heaven.
My favorite tea stall was Genuine Tea, a small vendor that goes straight to the source. Whether that means Taiwan, India, China, Nepal–wherever the tea is, they go there. Not only were they knowledgable, and ready to gush over the Maokong Tea Plantations in Taipei with their wonderful oolong, but they sampled me a smoked oolong that had the same peaty smell as Scotch. But tea tasted a lot better to this tea enthusiast.
We skipped the lectures because though the topics on the history of the Asian tea trade and its many health benefits interested me, Laura and I didn’t feel like sitting down. Too much tea to sample.
We did make time for the Korean tea ceremony. I loved comparing it to the Japanese tea ceremony I saw back on Kyoto in September. The same slow tempo and great care for ceremony and display of the ritual, but a different kind of tea that required more instruments and a small desk to carry the whole tea set. Not to mention watching it from the midst of a crowd of people all standing and squished together near a stage felt VERY different (and less calming) than kneeling inside a small Japanese tea room watching one woman conduct a small ceremony.
I don’t know what it takes to be a tea master, but it certainly starts young.
I’m glad I got to explore so much tea culture in Asia last fall, but going to the Toronto Tea Festival proves that you don’t necessarily have to travel outside of your continent, country, or city to find a community of experts and enthusiasts for practically any hobby or interest.
I only wish I had budgeted for buying way more tea–such great discounts on organic, fair trade, direct-from-the-source, and cheap teas. All the more reason to return next year.