NYC Coffee and Tea Fest 2017

Last month I traveled to New York for my yearly tradition of Coffee & Tea exploration at the New York City Coffee& Tea Festival. I was given a ticket courtesy of Starfish Junction Productions and my fellow tea-obsessed friend Stephanie graciously accompanied me. I’m glad I had another set of eyes to help me take in everything, jot notes, point out things, and take photographs. This year we spent a solid 5 (count ’em, FIVE) hours perusing the booths and barely had time to complete a “speed round” before the day was over. Each year new exhibitors are added as well as seminars and workshops.

I always enjoy visiting the festival to see old favorites as well as discover new products and companies. I’ll hi-light a few of the ones that we lingered at the longest or were particularly photo worthy.

Ippodo Tea, New York – 一保堂茶舗

Somehow this Japanese tea company’s aesthetic was not only humble and nostalgic, but clean and timeless. I enjoyed the matcha presentation using the traditional wooden ladle and metal pot as well as the individual-sized tea pots. They have a small location in New York City and the staff was incredibly friendly and knowledgeable.

MeiMei Fine Teas

I have a weakness for puerh tea and Mei Mei Fine Teas was singing the song of a siren. We spotted the beautiful cakes of tea from yards away and zeroed in. I walked away with a new-to-me puerh-stuffed young orange (to be brewed like blooming tea). The staff here were very friendly and warm, and later I found out they’re based out of the DC-area. Though their physical storefront isn’t open quite yet, I’ll be keeping a close eye on them.

Tea Dealers

Stephanie dragged me over to this table to admire their modern and clean packaging. This was one of the only times that we’ve seen Korean teas in a setting like this so we took the staff up on their offer to taste the iseul balhyo and it did not disappoint. In fact, we intended to go back and get a bag to share but we didn’t make it in time!

Live Vessel (LV)

While Stephanie had seen these on her travels in Taiwan, this brand of tea ware was new to me. You can tell the quality of the products is really high and the designs were traditional yet playful at times. Thank goodness I live in a small condo or else I would have bought a teapot (or two!) to take back with me.

Zhen Tea

Zhen Tea never disappoints. Whether with a beautiful tea ceremony, centering tea tasting, beautiful gaiwan, or warm staff, I’m always happy to see them. I still have some tea left from my last purchases, but I was tempted by a very fragrant rose black tea. They always have teas that I have absolutely never thought of, let alone seen at other vendors, including a tea almost as old as me!

Everlasting Teas

Everlasting Teas has gone through a huge rebranding effort. The founder visits every farm himself and has a new kickstarter for some hygge-inspired tea ware.

Ajiri Tea

I always enjoy stopping by this company’s booth. Each year they grow in size and their handmade packaging is truly whimsical and unique. I swear the fact that 100% of their profits go to employment and education in Kenya makes their tea taste better.

Sugimoto America

I really enjoyed SA’s booth. There were many types of approachable green teas and different brewing methods. The Sugimoto family started the company in 1946 and has been part of many generations. They have personal relationships with the farms and are very knowledgeable.

Joseph Wesley Tea

I’m not sure there’s a tea aesthetic that is more perfect for me than Joseph Wesley Tea. Simple, yet full of effort; modern yet not dated. Oh, and the teas themselves are full-bodied and well balanced. He knows how to make things taste good and look good and I feel like I want to be him when I grow up.

Silver Needle

Silver Needle is devoted to single origin teas. Everything about their packaging is refined and elegant, yet approachable. I want to have an afternoon tea party and buy myself flowers just because. That’s the type of mood their tea puts me in. This was another booth I didn’t get to go back to on “Round 2: Buy All the Things” because we ran out of time.

& Everything Else

The rest of the booths were diverse and interesting including iced teas, kombucha, mushroom coffee, chai, empanadas, cold brew, pumpkin milk, green coffee, tea soap, and even some tomato dip. It was a grand ol’ time where we were able to unabashedly indulge in tea nerdiness while learning new things and visiting old friends. If you’re in the area, I would definitely recommend the tea festival, or the Philadelphia version.


Coffee & Tea Festival NYC 2015

Last month I traveled to New York City for the 2015 New York Coffee and Tea Festival. This year it was held in Brooklyn instead of Manhattan, which some people griped about but I actually enjoyed. As I get older, I gravitate towards Brooklyn more than Manhattan, but I still love to visit the main city since it is much more accessible.

Apparently the move to Brooklyn was made so that the space would be larger. Unfortunately, I think the venue seemed about the same size. There were still lines and crowding to get to certain areas and at times it was difficult to talk to the vendors themselves. It was also hot inside and there were limited food options. We had learned from our past experience in 2014 and ate before-hand so we would be fueled for tea, coffee, and shopping. We also limited impulse purchases. We walked around and made notes of any vendors we wanted to re-visit so that we wouldn’t have to carry a lot of stuff and so that we could make sure we wouldn’t end up with buyer’s remorse like last time. I think Stephanie ended up with no less than 8 different Taiwanese oolongs because each stall seemed to be better than the last!

I enjoyed seeing some repeat visitors from last year, but missed some (Yezi!! Why weren’t you there?!). I also missed being able to talk to the vendors since I felt rushed due to the crowds and the heat. I was also disappointed because it seemed more “mainstream” this year. There were tea vendors that didn’t know what materials their tea bags were made out of and some vendors that didn’t even sell tea, coffee, or anything related to it.

I still enjoyed myself and am glad that I extended my stay a few days to check out Greenpoint and a new tea bar called teadrunk. Next year I would like to see some smaller, more focused companies and less chains and corporations. Before going, I had cataloged my tea at over 100 different kinds so I tried to be quite choosy with my purchases.

I purchased: The Book of Tea (Second Edition) – Signed, Mount Gray Tea from Damn Fine Tea (a favorite of mine. It’s takes a LOT for me to re-purchase a tea), Owl’s Brew Coco-lada Concentrate, a boutique Da Hong Pao oolong from yu teahouse, and my first gaiwan from Zhen Tea. No one could believe that I went to New York for a tea festival and only bought 2 teas! Stephanie and I split our stash so I also have some Light Tie Guan Yin from FirsdTea and Gao Shang Cha from Silver Needle. I probably would have purchased more if the vendors would have had their items available — some were sold out and some just weren’t selling tea.

I encourage anyone that likes tea or coffee to attend the festival. There were vendors for all levels and even entry-level drinkers. It’s fun to go when it’s a bit quieter (either VIP hour or towards the end of the day) so you can talk to the people themselves more. I know some people went both days so that they could attend some of the seminars and workshops.

Here are some spots that I took more than a few photos at.

Zhen Tea

Damn Fine Tea

Yu Teahouse

Joseph Wesley Teas


Silver Needle Tea Co

My Zhen Tea

Everlasting Tea

Chai Diaries

Waterfall Tea

The Veda Company

Honey & Apothecary



Disclaimer: I was provided press passes to this event

NYC Coffee & Tea Festival 2014


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.

Yezi Tea - Long Jing, Da Yu Ling, Jin Xuan

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.

Another company that really connected with us was Ajiri Tea. It was one of the first companies we visited and we were drawn in by the packaging.

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 OolongKashmiri Green Chai, and Chocolate Kisses. I was given some teas to sample, including Blood OrangeAssamDarjeeling Second FlushDragonwellJasmine 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.

In addition to Damn Fine Tea, Capital Teas (Maryland/DC/Virginia), and Sahpat Teas (Maryland) were also representing the Washington DC Metropolitan area.

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.

Continue reading

Mad Hatter Tea Party


Every year around Valentine’s Day, my sister’s usually throws a Valentine’s Day party for her Girl Scout troop. Last year, she decided the theme would be “Alice in Wonderland” and asked for my help in planning a Mad Hatter Tea Party. I worked with her and my mother to plan a menu and make all the treats. Everyone showed up to the party and was absolutely thrown away — they were expecting some food and some tea, but they got a full-blown professional-style party planned down to the tee.

Continue reading

Toast of the Town 2011

Last year I went to Toast of the Town 2010 and it was a great way to dive into the world of wine, food, and drink pairings. It’s easy for people my age to feel overwhelmed in the realm of wine–we’re always told it’s an “acquired taste”, but we don’t seem to have the time or money to cultivate this passion. There were hundreds of different wines and I was able to learn more about my preferences for wine and develop my palette. As I became more comfortable with wine exploration, I attended events at the International Wine and Food Festival, the Spirit Festival, and Sweet Charity. Through these great events I learned about many new libations and great places in the DC-area to purchase them at.

This year, I received a pair of tickets from Wine Enthusiast to Toast of the Town in Washington, DC. Upon arrival at the swanky National Building Museum downtown, we received a program for the night and a wine glass to add to your collection at home. The program had every table in the establishment with a space underneath to write notes if you wanted to.

One big difference between Toast of the Town (TOTT) 2010 and this year’s was the balance of food and wine. Though the emphasis is more on the drinks than food, this year had a great balance of small bites to accompany the wines. Eating a hamburger or eggplant lasagna with a wine brings out more flavors on both ends; it started some gears turning in my mind for future pairings. Last year I missed out on some of the food because many restaurants packed up early–this year I only missed Eatonville and SEI. The food was peppered evenly throughout the building, which kept wine lines short and food stocked and fresh.

Since the venue was spacious and airy, attendees were free to wander around at their own pace. I didn’t have to make a battle plan when I stepped in the door, instead I was able to walk up to whichever table I wanted to and strike up in-depth conversations. I learned many things about new restaurants and importers or brands that I had never heard of. One of my favorite parts of the night was when I stopped by Toki Underground to see Erik, the owner, daintily dressing his morsels of tofu and green beans.

I was able to try dessert with wine at Art & Soul, Melting Pot, Zoe’s Chocolate, Crumbs, and Canela Bakery. I was also able to sample some great cheeses from Cabot (trust them when they warn you the Habanero is spicy!), as well as some gin, biscotti liquor, coffee, sake, and beer. Above is the table for Chatham Imports, which was one of my favorite tables. You could try spirits here in their pure form, or in a freshly shaken cocktail. The Farmer’s Gin was too abrasive for me, but I started a love affair with the Faretti Chocolate Biscotti Liquor. The only bad thing–they don’t carry it in DC (yet!).

One of the most interesting things I tried all night was the Shimizu no Mai “Pure Dawn” sake. It was chilled to perfection, fresh, clean, with a creamy aftertaste coating the tongue. Sake is one of the spirits that has burned me in the past and can be expensive to develop a taste for, so I was thankful for the free lesson.

I think that the Wine Enthusiast sums up what I like best about Toast of the Town:

The stage is set for you to sip, socialize, and expand your palate, and to satisfy your curiosity about beverages from around the world not only by tasting them, but also by talking to the people who helped make them.

Wine Enthusiast thinks of wine as a cultural ambassador, providing a window into different cultures, giving you a ‘taste’ of the country. […] Think of this evening as a delicious trip around the world, and think of yourselves as Wine Ambassadors, because when you talk to people about it—in this venue and outside these walls—you spread the word about the joy that is wine.

I encourage you to attend Toast of the Town next year, whether you’re a seasoned connoisseur that’s looking to try new things, or if you’re a rookie looking for an un-intimidating way to make your debut on the wine scene. Either way you’ll have a great time at a classy and unique event.

The full list of participants in Toast of the Town 2010 and what they brought to the table can be found here.

Disclaimer: I received the tickets to Toast of the Town free of charge in exchange for this post. My opinion is my own and un-affected by Toast of the Town or Wine Enthusiast. All photographs courtesy of Nicole Oandasan, Copyright 2011.