This past weekend I went to the New York City Coffee & Tea Festival with my friend Stephanie. We were given press passes from Starfish Junction Productions and booked our transportation.
Fellow tea-lover Stephanie was travelling over 8 hours from Pittsburgh (and I was 5 hours from DC), so I was worried that the festival would be a waste of time or lame. We weren’t able to make the VIP session on Saturday (due to travelling), but we got there around noon Sunday and we were so happy with the festival!
I think it would have been even better if we made the VIP session since my only complaints were: too crowded at times and more food needed.
One of my favorite things about the festival was learning about new teas, tea companies, and meeting the people behind the teas. A great example of this was Yezi Tea. After walking through aisles for a while and snacking on a crepe, we happily plopped down on two stools in front of this booth and watched them prepare their teas in traditional Chinese style. We paged through their impressive booklet of what teas they have and sampled around 10 different teas and learned about their company and different teas.
Unfortunately, we fell in love with almost all of their teas. Stephanie & I have a soft spot for Taiwanese tea and I especially love oolongs because they’re so nostalgic for me.
Together we got: Da Yu Ling Oolong, Jin Xuan Oolong (Milk Oolong), Tie Guan Yin High Grade (Goddess of Mercy) Oolong, Wen Shan Pouchong Oolong, Gao Shan (High Mountain) Black, Long Jing High Grade (Dragonwell) Green, and Mo Li Hua (Jasmine Pearl) Green.
Here is some more information:
Women in the Kisii region of Kenya design and handcraft each label using dried bark from banana trees. […] Each label is unique, and often features a scene from day-to-day life. Inside of each box of tea is a twine made from banana tree bark and decorated with bright paper beads. The women hand cut, roll, and lacquer long, triangular strips of colored magazine paper to make the beads, and twist dried banana bark to make the twine.
In Kenya, it is especially difficult for women to find employment. […] Currently, five different women’s groups, totaling over 60 women, are creating artwork for the Ajiri Tea Company.
After hand-picking our favorite labels for coffee, I also picked up some Kenyan Black Tea with Ginger. Once I found out the profits went to educating orphans in Kenya, I felt even better about my purchases.
Before we went to Yezi, we stopped by Jeni’s Tea. They had put their loose leaf tea into wine glasses for smelling purposes, which I thought was a great idea. They also had a lil’ old Taiwanese Grandpa in the corner measuring out teas with a scale, which was endearing (and cute!). We tasted some of their teas (Stephanie got some Gao Shan Mountain Tea and Bao Zhong I believe), and I zeroed in on a nice, red oolong named “Buddha’s Palm”. Their packaging was very beautiful, though the tea was a bit expensive. I also thought it was a bit odd that their logo didn’t match the aesthetic of their packaging or the elegance of their tea, and since they don’t have a website, it is nearly impossible to find out more about their teas.
Though we met with them at the tail end of the festival, I really enjoyed learning about Chai Diaries. I talked with the owner about their teas, Ami, and loved the flavorful and strongly scented teas. I picked up some Passionfruit Oolong, Kashmiri Green Chai, and Chocolate Kisses. I was given some teas to sample, including Blood Orange, Assam, Darjeeling Second Flush, Dragonwell, Jasmine Green, and Masala Chai. I was drawn by the youthful, colorful packaging, as well as the owner/founder’s passion for her tea.
I was instantly drawn to Joseph Wesley’s tea. We swarmed to the booth like moths to a flame. The packaging is simple, colorful, elegant, and modern. We both enjoyed meeting and talking to Joseph and learning about his teas. Stephanie picked up some Lapsang Souchong and I received a few samples, including: Dian Hong Congfu, Bai Lin Congfu, and Lapsang Souchong. I tried a little bit of the Bai Lin Congfu (#6) today and it was a very pleasant cup of tea!
What really surprised me is that so many of the teas were close to me! Damn Fine Tea (pictured above) was a pleasure to talk to and they’re actually located in Maryland. Stephanie & I both were drawn to their friendliness as well as their great artistic packaging. I had to grab the limited edition Chinese New Year Yunnan Gold Tips tin, as well as the smoky smooth Caravan smoked tea. Stephanie nabbed the Mount Gray which I fully intend on pilfering from. The whole vibe of their stand reminded me of a Wes Anderson film in a quirky and artistic way.
I met some great companies and tasted some amazing teas and coffees while I was at the festival. I do wish there were some more food options (other than a $10 crepe), since tasting all the teas and coffees can lead to some caffeine jitters. While it was a bit over-crowded at some points, I really enjoyed myself in the afternoon once the crowd had cleared.
If we would have got there earlier or went both days, we might have been able to attend some of the informative seminars or workshops. But, maybe it’s for the best because then we would have spent more money and not been able to explore New York on the other days.
Regardless, Stephanie & I both enjoyed dumping our loot out onto the floor and seeing each other’s piles. We then, in a post-trick-or-treating Halloween-style, proceeded to swap and barter with each other.
The sessions this year were: Taiwanese Tea 101, Specialty Coffee: Taste The Difference, Tea: People & Plants, The Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony, Pairing Coffee with Brewing Methods, Women & Tea Through The Centuries, Milk Craft, Coffee Curtain Call – An Entertaining Look at Coffee, Tea & Chocolate, Coffee Cupping, Tea Infusions & Enhancers for the Perfect Cocktails, Tea & Cheese, Finding the Harmony Code, Coffee & Chocolate. Some were free seminars and others were workshops requiring a participation fee.