Globe-trotting Tea and Travel

Ottawa Tea Festival

Ottawa, left to right: Convention Centre, Parliament Buildings, Imperial War Museum

Tea Festivals seem to be popping up everywhere. Most are located on or near the West coast of North America. Los Angeles boasts two: The Tea Lovers Festival and The Los Angeles Tea Festival. The Northwest Tea Festival in Seattle has been around since 2008 and the Grand Dame of them all, The Victoria (Canada) Tea Festival held its first event in February, 2007.

Founder and organizer, Kimi Uriu of Kimicha with her baby boy, Luca. How did she find time to do all this?

The Ottawa Tea Festival was held in Canada’s capital, Ottawa Ontario on Saturday Dec. 1st at the Ottawa Convention Centre. In its second year, OTF was imagined and produced by Kimi Uriu of Kimicha. I was only available to attend the exhibitor event, but on Sunday Dec. 2nd other tasting events took place in the city. Proceeds of the festival went to Asha for Education, providing learning opportunities in tea producing regions of India.

There are probably only half a dozen or so “bricks and mortar” tea shops in Ottawa, but there are a number of online ventures based in the region. Ottawa area tea businesses seemed to be out in full force on Saturday. Judging from the crowd, I estimate that over 1000 thirsty locals attended the Saturday festival even though Ottawa temperatures were a frigid -8ºC (17.6ºF).

Kimicha's tasting table was swarmed throughout the afternoon.
Tao Wu of Tao Tea Leaf, Toronto. His Pu erh and Oolongs were popular

 Nibble and Slurp

While there may not have been a formal festival theme, it was clear that tea and food pairing was the general idea. Perhaps it was the time of the year, but chocolates were everywhere, for sample and for sale. Jen Winter, a stand out chocolatiere, brought her delicious tea-infused Koko chocolates and truffles. Many of her creations are available in the Ottawa area or online in Canada through Foodie Pages. Hopefully the tea-infused truffles will be available online soon.

Jen Winter of Koko Chocolates at her colourful and delicious table
Tea Truffles
Tea-infused truffles up close: Gold leaf - Masalla Chai, Stripe - Moroccan Mint, Swirl - Matcha

Carolina’s Box of Goodness presented an array of brownies including a Matcha-infused delicacy. It was refreshing to see a  menu which paired their treats with specific teas. I see on their website that Carolina Foresti also designs gorgeous cakes, taking the art of fondant manipulation to a new level.

Carolina's Matcha brownies and food pairing menu

It’s a pity that Hearty Bakery’s exquisite and unique chocolate bauble is only available in Ottawa.

Pièce de Resistance - a chocolate bauble from Hearty Bakery in Ottawa

Personal chef, Justin Scott supplied us with tasty morsels infused with tea. My favourites were the Coconut Matcha Energy Bites, but all his experiments were brilliant.

Personal Chef Justin Scott treated us to some tasty tea cuisine
Justin Scott's delicious pastries and menu

Tea World

Several countries proudly promoted their tea and tea products at the festival. The Tea Board of India showcased Orthodox Assam, Nilgiri (my favourite) and Darjeeling. Indonesia featured Bali’s Best Green Tea Candy and spiced layer cake called Lapis Legit, a creamy textured confection made with cinnamon, cardamom, clove, flour and eggs. Dancers from India and Sri Lanka performed on a small presentation floor with adjacent audience seating.

Sri Lankan dancers, Indonesian tea and Indian dance provided a rich cultural experience from these tea producing countries
Lapis Legit - An Indonesian spice layer cake

Kyoko Tsunetomi, a Chado Prctitioner prepared Matcha at a less formal presentation which I believe is referred to as Chakai. She wore a beautiful yellow and red Kimono with a red Obi.

Kyoko Tsunetomi in her beautiful Kimono before her Chakai Matcha presentation
Chakai Matcha preparation

Tea Beauty

Natalie Esau integrates tea into the spa experience at her Upkeep Shoppe in Ottawa by creating and serving custom herbal tisanes for the wellness of her clients. She also sells the Beautea line of skin care products. Made from organic ingredients, they harness the skin enhancing properties of L Theanine.

The Upkeep Shoppe featured Beautea's line of lotions and fragrances. From left Green Oolong room spray and body lotion, Black Ceylon body lotion and room spray

The mood of OTF was one of discovery and enthusiasm. It had a completely different purpose than a B2B trade show.  Consumer Tea Festivals offer vendors direct contact with their customers, give tea lovers the opportunity to learn a little more about their favourite beverage and most importantly help to build a tea community in the region where they are held. I’m looking forward to the Toronto Tea Festival taking place on Saturday, February 2nd, 2013. Are you planning a tea festival in your region?