After the Festival

Last weekend the Northwest Tea Festival was a little sparse, but in its inaugural year it was about the size I expected it to be. Festival attendance looked pretty good on Saturday while I was there and most of the booths were getting a fair amount of attention. We paid the $5 donation to the festival and were given the festival bags, containing a nice white ceramic tasting cup, a few samples of the sponsor’s products and some promotional leaflets. The two films and all of the event programming were centered around tea and worldwide traditional tea cultures, so I was a little surprised to see so many flavored blends and tisanes offered as tasting samples in the booths and in the donor bags. I prefer learning about and drinking pure teas from specific cultural traditions, thus a lot of what was offered held little interest for me.

It was notable that the retailer serving the most samples and selling the most product was SA Japanese Green Teas. I would like to think that this was because theirs were the more traditional and clearly identified teas, although it may just be that Japan and green teas are especially popular right now. I was very impressed by a taste of their award-winning genmaicha, a more wonderfully aromatic and rich brew than any other genmaicha I have tasted. I purchased the last of the loose leaf cans they had available and also bought some of their loose leaf hojicha.

The tasting room – essentially a row of tables with stools behind a curtain – ran explanatory and useful classroom-styled tastings throughout the day. The tasting that I sat in on was hosted by Barnes & Watson Fine Teas and consisted of three different oolongs: a Taiwanese Baojhong, a “Formosa” Oolong (also from Taiwan) and a Rou Gui (Cinnamon) Oolong from Wu Yi Mountain, Fujian Province in China.

The most outstanding experience of the festival was the opportunity to observe a Korean Tea Ceremony demonstration by Tea Master Yoon Hee Kim. Preceding the ceremony itself she gave an incredibly informative talk about the history of tea culture in Korea and its recent re-emergence after periods of suppression under Japanese occupation and near decimation of the tea fields during the Korean War. The ceremony itself, called Panyaro in Korean, is notably different from Chanoyu, the much more well known Japanese tea ceremony. In one of those odd and frequent synchronicities I had been reading about Korean tea culture over the past few weeks so I was particularly fascinated with the lecture and demonstration. Yoon Hee Kim is also a wonderful photographer. Some of her work was on display in one section of the festival’s wall space. A more extensive look at her work can be found on her website.

I hope that the festival organizers were pleased with the turnout and the feedback. I would say that overall they did a pretty good job of assembling and presenting the event. I expect even greater things out of the second annual festival next year.


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  2. I did not have time to attend the film, although I wanted to. It is available on DVD already, so I am planning on buying a copy of it in the next couple of weeks.