The 2018 Toronto Tea Festival was a whirlwind for me! There were many vendors and tea friends for me to meet and see, as well as teas to taste. I contemplated how to recap this event, so I thought that I would take you along with me as if we are going to the various booths together and show you my small tea hull.
This was my second time going, and I admit, I felt a bit overwhelmed because there was so much to see and do! The event was held at the Toronto Reference Library. I can see why the event organizers like the location: it’s close to a subway station, in a lovely neighborhood, and is a central location. I went on Sunday, February 4th.
I asked Rita (who helps with the event) if there was a copy of the map floor plan without the numbers to all the vendors because I wasn’t able to visit everyone. She sweetly asked the designer to remove the numbers for me. Thank you, Rita! I intended to add numbers of vendors I visited, but because of my trip to Asia, I sadly won’t have time!
Section A – Speakers
Each attendee received a bag with a small glass cup and a pamphlet before walking into the venue. When you enter, there is a coat check, and along the wall was an area to take photos, the results of the 2018 Tea Tasting Box, and the entrance to the speaker’s room.
Zhen Teas’ Taste the Process – Decoding Your Tasting Notes: Since I was only there for a day, I only had time for one talk. Zhen Tea is a tea company that focuses on Chinese teas. I really liked how Zhen (one of the owners) laid everything out with graphics and photos. I found that she was a very approachable and genuine speaker.
She explained how she tastes teas, and I picked up a few tips! She mentioned trying closing your eyes and allowing the tea to stay in your mouth for at least 30 seconds. By closing your eyes and having the tea in your mouth, you are forced to focus on the tea only.
She also mentioned that you should never assume what the tea will taste like and to not be nervous when you don’t taste what someone else did! Everyone’s pallet is different. I appreciate the last statement because I find that I always get very intimidated when I taste something and everyone else tastes something completely different.
The other talks sounded amazing, but I was just too crunched for time.
Section B – Tea Tasting Box & Vendors
2018 Tea Tasting Box: The box is an opportunity for tea brands to send in teas for tea tasters to try. The categories are herbal, black, puerh, oolong, white and green.
I was able to be a tea taster this year! I received a handful of black teas. Since I knew some of the brands, I decided to do a blind tasting so that I didn’t go in with any bias. When I look at the winners, I was fortunate enough to have tasted second place (Tao Tea Leaf’s Golden Needle), third place (Han Cha Chinese Culture Inc’s Zheng Sha Ziao Zhong), and fourth place (Espirtaia Tea’s Si Jin Hon).
I had a lot of fun doing this! I would recommend becoming a tea taster if you enjoy tea!
Vendors: After the coat check was the main vendor area. There were 51 vendors this year. Let’s recap of some of the vendors and what I saw. This is not an extensive list of every vendor since I wasn’t able to go everywhere. Since I knew that I was going on a trip, I tried to only purchase from brands that I had never tried before.
Lemon Lily: I came across this brand last year. Jason, the owner, kindly gave me some teas to try! I really enjoyed the Ginger Coconut I had. Read my Lemon Lily reviews!
Genuine Tea: I personally think David and Sarah are great! I have received and purchased tea from them in the past. I love their goal of wanting to promote freshness and transparency in teas. I enjoyed the Milk Oolong, Cream of Earl Grey and Imperial Golden Monkey. Read my Genuine Tea reviews!
Tea Sparrow: I had seen this tea box before online! The owner was very sweet and we had a nice chat about tea while I sampled his selection. He offered to send me a custom box of teas he thought that I would like!
Momo Tea: Last year, I purchased some yummy mochis and a hojicha from Momo! This year, since I knew that I was going to Japan, I refrained from buying any teas, but I did buy some macarons from Trois Petits Sucres which used matcha and hojicha from Momo Tea. Read my Momo Tea reviews!
Section C – Vendors & Stage
Consulate General of Sri Lanka – Toronto: I have to admit, in the past, I have been a huge fan of teas from Sri Lanka. The Consulate was very generous and had seven different teas from various regions of the country to give out! I admit I picked up one from each. Can’t wait!
Zhen Tea: I have a very fond spot for Zhen Tea. So, when I saw that they had curated a box just for the Toronto Tea Festival, I couldn’t help but to buy it!
Tearoma: This brand was on my radar because I saw the beautiful tins that they have on The Cup of Life (Lu Ann)’s Instagram. I really wanted to try the sample teas, but a vendor accidentally dropped my glass cup earlier.
When I asked if they had disposable cups, one of the vendors from Tearoma sweetly gave me her cup from her bag! That really warmed me up to the brand, and I bought four sample sizes of their teas. I enjoyed what I tasted and would like to try more from the brand. I give them an A+ for great customer service! Thanks for the cup!
Tillerman Tea: Everyone had been telling me that the Founder of Tillerman Tea, David Campbell, was an expert in Taiwanese teas, so I asked him for some recommendations for places to go! He was very sweet. The company offers free shipping in North America!
Lunch: I didn’t know this, but Lunch is the new venture of TJ from World Tea Podcast. The focus of the brand is making handmade soaps from fruits and vegetables, and of course, tea!
Wize Monkey: I really like the concept of this brand! They use the coffee leaves to brew a beverage! It does taste different from tea, but for me, I like that they are using a resource that was not tapped into and that gives the farmers additional income! I bought a sample pack!
T By Daniel: Daniel and Renata are another couple that I have a soft spot for! I tried T by Daniel a few years ago and really enjoyed all the interesting blends! When I wasn’t sure about the direction of my blog, Renata was very kind, understanding, and encouraging about my shift! Read my T by Daniel reviews!
Epic Stage: At the back of the venue was a large stage with different tea ceremonies every half an hour alternating between Japanese, Korean, and Chinese ceremonies. I was able to watch the Japanese one for a bit. I would love to see one up close in person! There is also a Tea IQ event where participants taste different teas, but it overlapped with Zhen Teas’ Taste the Process – Decoding Your Tasting Notes Talk!
Lu Ann from The Cup of Life: I have been wanting to meet Lu Ann for ages and I finally did! She is as lovely in person as she is online! I definitely recommend her book. Read my review of it!
Deb from The Sugared Tea Cup: I met Deb a while back and I’m glad that I was able to hhang outwith her for a bit! She is so bright and bubbly. Check out her various tea boxes! I spoke about a custom box Deb curated for me a few weeks ago!
Mel from Mel Had Tea: I randomly met Mel! She is also going to be an intern at the same farm as me! Hi Obubu Buddy!
Overall, I really enjoyed this tea event and it is something I look forward to each year. I would recommend it to anyone who loves tea, tea culture and tea education. It is great to be in an environment where everyone is as passionate as you about something!
However, I find that space is very tight, which causes it to become crowded and difficult to navigate. Many people piled into the front of each booth, and some booth tables were extremely small. Having been a vendor myself in the past, I wish that all the tables were a larger size. I think it would have given more breathing room for everyone.
Have you been to the Toronto Tea Festival?
P.S By the time I post this, I will be in Japan! If you want to see what I am up to, follow me on Instagram!