Getting to know the communi-tea

Blooming tea will be one of the many varieties of tea featured at the 3rd annual Vancouver Tea Festival taking place on November 5.

Let me preface this by saying that, all things considered, the third annual Vancouver Tea Festival was an educational, and fun time. With a packed schedule of tea tastings, a companion schedule for workshops that educated the average festival-goer on the tea-making process, and the differences in plants and regions, I can confidently say that I know more about tea than I ever thought I would.

For instance, a ‘flush’ is a season of tea-leaf picking. Four flushes is the maximum possible for a tea plant per year, but it’s a rare occurrence. Green tea and black tea can come from the same tea plant, but the different flavours come as a result of oxidation and the heating method used. Green teas aren’t oxidized at all, black teas are oxidized the longest, and darjeelings and oolongs are oxidized for a middling amount of time.

The vendors were all really friendly and generous in pouring out mini-teacup after mini-teacup, some of them even offering up to eight different brews. Most people had sales on: Silk Road gave out cards for free cups of tea for the month of November, and JusTea showcased a brand new purple tea from Kenya. Purple tea came about as a genetic mutation from the regular green tea plant, but has a different flavour than the original.

There was only one thing about the festival that deserves to be on the list of things to improve for next year: communication. It’s always difficult to keep track of which people know which facts, and which volunteers have been trained, so it’s an understandable shortcoming. Things like this can be minimized, and though it wasn’t as smooth as I’m sure the organizers would have wanted, I’ve seen worse.

So, despite overbooking the tea leaf reader, and an entry line-up that went from the entrance of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden almost all the way to Carrall Street, the tea festival was a success. Plenty of happy tea tasters, drinkers, and purveyors roamed around, engaging in conversation, and bonding over steaming cups of leaf water.