Friday, October 31, 2014

Northwest Tea Festival 2014

During the first weekend in October, I attended the 7th annual Northwest Tea Festival in Seattle.  The weather was beautiful and perfect for those of us who lined up outside awaiting the festival opening.

Attendance this year was incredible.  Though I generally shy away from large crowds, everyone was in such good spirits that it was a welcoming experience rather than being stressful.  Volunteers armed with teapots walked the floor, ensuring that no tasting cups remained unfilled and visits to the wide variety of tea booths took care of any additional tea sampling needs.

In addition to sitting in on a number of informative lectures and successfully restocking my tea cabinet at the vendor booths, I also had the opportunity to attend the following events:

Workshops & Demonstrations:

Experience the Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony was presented by NW Wu-Wo Tea Association.  I sat in as an observer as this was my first experience with Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony.  Wu-Wo is a modified form of gong fu tea developed by Grand Master Tsai in 1989 with the intent to eliminate preferential treatment.  The participants each lay out a gong fu tea set on a mat or tray, including a teapot or gaiwan, fairness pitcher (cha hai), and tea cups.  They are provided with several samples of tea and everyone brews the tea at the same time.  When the tea is ready, it is poured into tea cups at other participants' locations.  When everyone is back at their original spot, they can enjoy the tea and the process is repeated.

Afternoon Tea vs. High Tea was presented by Marilyn Miller of Marmalady's Tea.  We learned the history of Afternoon Tea, from the introduction and popularization of tea and later Afternoon Tea, to modern times with a comparison of Afternoon and High Tea traditions.  Then we were given some very handy tips on how to prepare a cucumber tea sandwich, a staple of Afternoon Tea service.

Taiwanese Aroma Cups for Beginners was presented by Charles and Laurie Dawson of Traditional Teas From The Domestic Goddess.  They shared with us the relatively brief history of the aroma cup which has been around since the late 1970s.  Then we learned the 4 basic steps in using an aroma cup along with the translated names for each step:

1) Bathing the aroma cup - Pour tea into the aroma cup.
2) Dragon and phoenix in auspicious union - Place the tea cup upside down on top of the aroma cup.
3) Invert the carp - Holding the cups in place with the thumb on the bottom and fingers on top, turn the cups over.
4) Gently release respectfully receiving the fragrant tea - Gently pull away the aroma cup and take in the scent, then enjoy your tea.

While practicing with the aroma cups, we tasted a Tie Guan Yin oolong from Fujian, a Jin Shuan (Milk Oolong) from Taiwan, and a Hong Cha from Fujian.

A Japanese Tea Ceremony was hosted by Sugimoto America and presented by Chiaki Ito, a certified teacher of the Yabunochi School.

Tea Tastings:

African White Teas was presented by Cinnabar Wright of Phoenix Tea.  Samples included:

Sindano Fedha (Silver Needle) from Kenya.

Malawi Antlers (White Tea) from (you guessed it) Malawi.

Jani Dhahabu (Golden Leaf) from Kenya.

US Grown Tea was presented by Elyse Petersen of Tealet where we were introduced to teas produced in Western States.  Samples included:

Green Tea from Sakuma Brothers located in Washington's Skagit Valley.

Tea from Minto Island Growers located south of Salem, Oregon.

White Tea from Bob Jacobson of Hawaii Rainforest Tea.

Artisan "Fresh Teas" was presented by Ned and Catherine Heagerty of Silk Road Teas.  They specialize in 1st Flush (fresh) teas and the tasting samples were all made to local custom, reflecting the style and preference of how the locals like their tea.  Samples included:

Green Clouds and Mist, a high mountain green tea from Fuzhou in Fujian Province.

Black Fragrance, a black tea from Fujian Province.

Plum Blossom Fragrance, a Fenhuang Dan Cong-style oolong from Guangdong Province.

This year's festival was fantastic and I'm already anticipating the 2015 Northwest Tea Festival!

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