2024 Toronto Tea Festival | Event Recap

by Tea in Spoons

It has been a few years since I attended the Toronto Tea Festival. So, with new and familiar vendors, speakers, presenters, and tea friends going, I knew it would be a fun time!

Description: “10th Annual Toronto Tea Festival Brews Excitement with Over 50 Vendors”

The event occurred on Saturday, January 27 and Sunday, 28, 2024. Like previous years, the Festival was held at the Toronto Reference Library. The building is centrally located in a walkable/transit-friendly downtown Toronto neighbourhood.

As I was only going on Saturday, I decided to go early. This was a good idea since there were some technical and transit issues which created a long lineup! Attendees were able to purchase the tickets online or in person. Each ticket came with an orange tote bag, a small glass tasting cup, a printed schedule booklet, and since it was the 10th year, there was an additional commemorative brown cold tea brewing glass bottle.

Over the years, the Festival has grown in size (both vendors and attendees), so it was split between two areas of the library. The vendors and presenters were on the second floor in the Appel Salon, while the speakers were on the main floor in the Beeton Speakers Room. The locations are connected directly via a staircase or an elevator.

I wanted to sample a bit of everything the event had to offer, so I attended talks, and demonstrations, and visited the vendor section. To make this more manageable, I organized the post to recap the speakers and presentation first, then highlight a few vendors. The speakers and demonstrations are in order of the event schedule.

Let’s go!

Drink Your Tea and Eat It Too – Nicole Wilson

After a quick walk around the Appel Salon to look at the vendors, I head downstairs for the first talk of the day by fellow tea blogger, Nicole Wilson (left), Tea from Me Please! I previously met Nicole at the World Tea Expo and her blog covers a range of tea topics. She also released a book, The Tea Recipe Book: 50 Hot and Iced Teas from Lattes to Bobas, in 2022. Linda Gaylard (right), The Tea Stylist, gave a short introduction to the talk which focused on tea and food.

Nicole shared multiple tea and food-related tips and recipes such as how to make lattes, cocktails/mocktails, and bake and cook with tea. One recipe that caught my attention was using steeped Gykokuro, a Japanese green tea, in your omelettes. This is something I need to try as it is a smart way to use the infused leaves. If you want to learn more about Nicole’s book, The Tea Recipe, I wrote a book review and I tasted some of the recipes!

Chinese Tea Ceremony – Sabrina Chen and Tao Wu 

During the festival, demonstrations and talks were happening concurrently, so, there was no way to attend everything. Since I attended a talk, I decided to watch the Chinese tea ceremony next. Sabrina from Tearoma conducted the tea ceremony and I have seen her in the past!

The ceremony consisted of three main parts. First, Tao Wu from Tao Tea Leaf introduced all the tools which was a nice primer for the ceremony. Then Sabrina conducted a modern version of the Chinese tea ceremony. My understanding is that this is likely a shorter version. Sabrina did every movement with precision and grace! After the tea ceremony was completed, Tao explained each step.

I liked this arrangement since it lets the audience focus on the ceremony and then get an explanation of what they saw. I find when the explanation are happening at the same time, it takes away from the flow of the ceremony and it can be distracting for the viewer. It is a joy to watch tea ceremonies and wish I could have seen the other ones too!

The Power of Partnership & Communitea – Nadia De La Vega

While I have been drinking tea my whole life, DAVIDsTEA is one of the reasons why I started my blog, therefore I am always curious to hear more from them. DAVIDsTEA aims to be a community-focused brand and the speaker was Nadia De La Vega, who is the Director of Tea Sustainability & Content at DAVIDsTEA. Nadia stressed that the talk was not only for the tea industry but that consumers need to also understand what they drink which is very true! Partnership within tea is an area I want to understand better, so this talk seemed like it would be an informative session!

The talk centered around the partnership between DAVIDsTEA and Tea Horse, an Indigenous-owned brand by Denise and Marc. DAVIDsTEA’s goal was to work on reconciliation so, the tea blend Manoomin Maple, was originally launched in 2022 and was relaunched this year. It is symbolic of “true collaboration” between Tea Horse and DAVIDsTEA – if all the parties did not agree, the idea would not move ahead. The partnership with Tea Horse included supporting the Indigenous community by giving-back to the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), providing reconciliation education to DAVIDsTEA employees, and a tin showcasing artwork from Emily Kewageshig. I was able to purchase this beautiful tin at the festival!

The main ingredient Tea Horse focuses on is manoomin, which is the Ojibwe word for wild rice, an ancestral marsh grain. Tea Horse initially used it in place of brown rice in genmaicha, which is a Japanese tea with rice, in their Manoomin Cha blend. They have developed a unique way to roast manoomin and honour the grain. A lovely parallel was brought up by Denise between manoomin, which needs water and land, and reconciliation and how both require the right conditions. What I also learned was Tea Horse was inspired by the Toronto Tea Festival! I recall trying Tea Horse’s blends many years ago when they were at the Tea Festival and tried a few teas last year.

Japanese Tea Auction And The Sustainability Challenge – Rikko Osaki

I have been lucky enough to travel to Japan in the past, however, I was unable to visit a tea market. With the focus on tea auctions and sustainability, Rikko Osaki of Hokusan Tea Canada’s talk caught my attention. Rikko gave a quick primer on Japanese tea and then dove into her time at the Shizuoka Tea Market. This market is the largest and oldest and Rikko was the first woman to work there in 2022!

During the talk, Rikko explained how the tea auction worked which was fascinating to hear about. Did you know that the different colours hats identify the roles of people at the market, from buyers to farmers? They also use an abacus to do calculations, so others can’t see the price. Hopefully, in the future, I will have a chance to visit a tea market! Rikko had some of the items (such as the hats and abacus) from the tea auction on display at her booth.

The second part of the talk focused on sustainability in tea, specifically in Japan. One overarching fact is that the average age of farmers in Japan was 68 in 2024 and there is a low percentage of people joining the industry. Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms (where I was an intern when I was in Japan) began their company by leasing or purchasing tea farms from tea farmers who could no longer farm/did not want to continue farming. However, this is not a common practice. Other concerns that Rikko raised were climate change, globalization, the decline of prices but an increase in farmers’ cost, and the decline of craftmanship in the tea culture. There seemed to be some hope in the future with the government trying to aid the industry and the use of technology!


Visiting vendors is one of my favourite things to do at the Tea Festival because there are new and familiar vendors and fresh things to see! Below is not an exhaustive list of all the vendors I purchased from or liked. Some of the vendors new to me will have dedicated reviews in the future, so be on the lookout for that. The photo above is my tea haul which may give a clue to some future reviews. Thanks to Kelly (ros_strange) for recommending some brands for me to try!

Momo Tea and Natural Japaneats: Whenever I go to the Tea Festival, I always make a point to drop by Momo’s booth because she is so full of cheer and has Japanese teas! She normally shares her booth with Natural Japaneats who creates plant-based Japanese snacks. One of the snacks was daifuku-mochi with all the proceeds going to charity, so I purchased hojicha and matcha. The daifuku-mochi had a nice fluffy texture and a good chew. I preferred the hojicha one as it had a nice roasted taste.

Tao Tea Leaf: While there were many vendors, only a few had ready-made teas at the event. I purchased the hojicha latte since it used oat milk (the other drinks used milk). The latte had a nice roasted flavour and the oat milk gave it a creamy consistency, but there was a bit of grittiness at the end of the sip (this seems common for drinks that use hojicha power). Tao Tea Leaf also had some non-latte teas, as well as a large assortment of teas!

Zhen Tea: While I did not purchase tea from Zhen and Phil this year, they brewed different Chinese teas during the event, so I liked stopping by to try out their wide range of teas.

Soocha Tea: If I had to pick my favourite type of tea, it would be black tea. Soo’s Balhyocha, a Korean black tea is up there in terms of the black teas I enjoy! Korean teas are still not that common, so I would suggest trying them if you haven’t before. Soo sells other Korean teas and herbals as well!

Tea Tasting Box Challange

For as long as I can remember, the Tea Festival had the “People’s Choice Award” for the various tea types and herbs. Over the years, I have been able to participate by signing up to receive a box. The box (or bag in previous years) would have teas from different vendors and people would rate them. This year, I realized a bit too late and missed the signup, but Rita, one of the organizers, kindly arranged for me to get the herbal box. If you want to read more about the Tea Tasting Box, I documented my experience tasting an oolong box a few years ago!


I have been to several Toronto Tea Festivals with the first time being the 5th year it was held. Regardless of it being a few years since I last attended, going to the Toronto Tea Festival always feels like visiting “home” as I have become familiar with vendors and have made a handful of tea friends during my tea journey! This year, after the event, I went to an impromptu tea session with a few tea friends, Taniya (YogaTeaPoetry), Vedika (Chai Musafir), Traci (Tea Infusiast), Kelly (ros_strange), and Marco (STEAP’D), which was a lovely way for me to end the night!

When it comes to the 10th Toronto Tea Festival itself, I enjoyed the presentation and demonstrations which supplemented the vendors. However, I do wish there were some paid workshops/events options like in previous years, such as the Tasting with Tea Sommeliers & Tea Leaders event in 2017. While it was an additional cost, I found it worked very well at Nihoncha Matsuri last year. Paid workshops/events allow for a wider variety of topics to be discussed since supplies, labour, etc. can be covered by the additional ticket fee.

That being said, the biggest issue for me was the crowds. It was very difficult to navigate around the vendor section and it seemed to have been a similar situation last year as well. This is also an accessibility issue as there were guests with strollers, canes, and wheelchairs and it seemed to be difficult for them to traverse the venue. I understand that there may be logistical concerns about moving the event since the library is in a central location and has been always held there. So, maybe there is a way to expand into other spaces within the library. At times, especially during the afternoon, it was uncomfortable to be in the vendor area.

Regardless, I had fun and learned a lot! I am ready to go again next year, but I think one day is more than enough for me (3.5/5 rating).

  • Dates: Saturday, January 27 and Sunday, 28, 2024
  • Location: Toronto Reference Library, Appel Salon and Beeton Speakers Room, 789 Yonge Street, Toronto
  • Website: Toronto Tea Festival

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Tea in Spoons is where I share my love of teas through tea reviews, tea travel, tea tips, information, and more. New tea adventure every Thursday!