Monday, October 7, 2013

Northwest Tea Festival 2013

The 2013 Northwest Tea Festival took place at Seattle Center on October 5th and 6th.  After a couple weeks of heavy rains and wind, we couldn't have asked for more beautiful weather for the occasion.

This year's Tea Festival included guest lecturers like James Norwood Pratt who shared with us just a fraction of his wealth of knowledge on tea and its renaissance in the American market over the past 60+ years.

There were a wide range of tea tasting opportunities at the Tea Festival.  These filled up quickly, so it's always wise to arrive early to secure a seat.  

I especially enjoyed the Wuyi Rock Tea tasting presented by Andrew Goodman.  He prepared Da Hong Pao and Rou Gui, both from the Wuyishan region of Fujian, China where the volcanic soil is rich in nutrients and lends a unique and desirable mineral quality to the taste of the tea produced there.  

The teas were prepared using "automatic" tea makers which were in use at several vendor booths this year.  The tea brews in the top for about 2 minutes and 30 seconds, then dispenses to the pot below.  It's ideal for tea drinkers or presenters who are often distracted or pulled away during the brewing process and don't like coming back to a painfully over-brewed pot of tea.

There were a number of fascinating and informative workshops at the Tea Festival this year.  Due to the popularity of the Festival and the limited seating available, workshops were limited to one per attendee per day.  As mentioned before, it's wise to arrive early to secure your seat.  I attended the How to Make Moist and Delicious Scones workshop presented by Amy Lawrence, owner of An Afternoon To Remember.  In addition to a practical demonstration complete with handy tips, we were all treated to a delicious cup of Apple Autumn Spice tea and scones with lime curd. 

[Above:  Teapot by South Korean artisan Park Jong Il at the Phoenix Tea booth]

As always, there was a nice mix of vendor booths at the Tea Festival this year.  In addition to tasting a lot (and more than a lot) of wonderful teas, I was pleased to see a greater variety of teaware than in previous years.  Traditional and artisan teaware were represented well this year.

Matcha has a special place in my heart, so I was very happy to see at least two vendors preparing and selling it at the Tea Festival this year.  Both ceremonial and cooking grades were available.

This year, the Tea Festival included a display of 20th century teaware, on loan from the Wing Luke Museum. 

These photos of matcha and tea ceremony implements are my not-so-subtle segue into the event I most looked forward to at this year's Tea Festival.  

Richard Brandt is a ceramic artist from Portland, Oregon.  He is a long-time student and practitioner of Japanese tea ceremony and has successfully blended this practical knowledge into the creation of tea bowls.  At the Festival, he demonstrated and explained the process of making a Raku tea bowl from hand-molding to firing.

Jan Waldmann, an Urasenke certified teacher of chado (tea ceremony) from Portland, prepared tea using the "new born" Raku tea bowl, for its new owner.

This year's Northwest Tea Festival was something special and I'm already looking forward to next year!  Thank you to all the volunteers, presenters, and vendors for making this event possible!

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