Now on to Part 2 of my ‘review’ of the Midwest Tea Fest! Oh, what goodness lies ahead!
What kind of tea person would I be if I did not take home a massive haul of tea back with me? I packed very light for the trip, but brought a giant suitcase to hold it all in. When it was all packed tightly away, I just made the cut off size for a checked bag. 49.5lbs of nothing but tea, teaware, and toothpaste!
I know how it looks, there is a lot more teaware than there is tea. I waited too long to snag anything, and a lot of the teas being sold were essentially all gone. But! I fell in love with more teaware than I think is healthy for just one person. It was pretty crowded around all of the booths the majority of the time, it was a madhouse! Just watching the folks at the Queen’s Pantry feverishly weigh and pack all the teas that were flying off the ‘shelves’ was almost nauseating. I overheard the people at Shang Tea how they only prepared for 300 people, and there was easily twice as much in attendance.
The few teas you see are mostly samples, the Rishi and Harney were in my goodie bag, and I got samples of Pomegranate white and gunpowder mint from Single Origin. I did purchase Single Origin Tea’s Jun Chiyabari, the last one on their table. There is a small round tin of Bingley’s 10yrs Oven Roasted Aged oolong, and I did pick up some of Shang’s Aged White. (Not at the actual festival though, I took the short walk to Crowne Plaza to their brick and mortar store to pick some up, they were not selling them at the fest.)
I ended up doing something I never do, and that is indulge in any whim I had along the way. I bought three pieces from Pi Ceramics, a sweet goblet cup, a cha hai (sharing pitcher) for gongfu, and a short and stout kuysu! They are great looking pieces and have a good home here with me. I bought another sharing pitcher from Bingley’s, as well as a small glass teapot. The two small white cups are from Shang Tea, as well as the white infused mug, and the Tea Seed Oil. (Fun Fact: Tea Seed Oil has a smoke point of 455F. You could healthily fry with it!)
The two books you see are the darlings of my collection from the fest. The first is Nichole’s own book, Tea Log: Chronicle your journey of Tea which a very useful tool I know I will be filling up very quickly. And the hardcover 30th edition of Tea Lover’s Treasury by James Norwood Pratt was signed by the legend himself. I was overjoyed by the welcoming attitude he and his wife Valerie had towards everyone they talked to.
The Midwest Tea Fest a was a whirlwind of fun! It had everything I could have hoped for in my first tea-centric festival, great teas, fun gadgets, big names, and excitement! I can’t thank the coordinators Alex and Nichole enough Here is my review of the festivities, quick and easy.
Getting to the venue was a bit of a challenge. One of the country’s oldest races cut right across the World War 1 museum, so find the entrance was a bit of a laugh for me, I felt like I was climbing a mountain to get to the tall spire and the bashful sphinxes that guarded the museum. I never realized just how out of shape I was until I trudged up that hill! By the time I got to the entrance, it was already 10:15. The festival started at 10 and the line was already almost to the door. With some waiting and a slight hiccup, (I had preordered my tickets, and got the Dragonwell VIP package, and was not found on ‘the list.’ I managed to get in, but now that I think about it, there was all sorts of goodies I was supposed to receive with my ticket… ah well.) I was in! There was such a mass of people, that I had to wait aside for the right moment to enter, lest I be swept away by the throngs of tea-obsessed peoples.
I managed to get inside, and immediately started taking pictures. Queen’s Pantry was the first booth, and was massively swamped the whole time, with good reason too! They were sampling their Birthday cake black tea, which was excellent. Next door was the Shang Tea booth, which was sampling their white and tangerine blossom red. I couldn’t wait to sit in their presentation about aged white tea and unglazed porcelain.
The booth next to Shang was none other than James Norwood Pratt and his wife Valerie! I had to double back from the Harney and Sons booth to say hello to them both. JNP was a little surprised at my enthusiasm, a good majority of the people in attendance were just walking past him. He had a funny laugh and was quite polite. He handed me his business card with both hands and made me promise to keep in touch. NO problem, man! Next to his booth was Pi ceramics, which had great handmade pottery. I ended up getting a lot of her wares! But that is for another post.
Harney was stuck in the corner, and strangely unattended most of the time. Across that way was Tea Market, Bingley’s and Traveling Tea. I loved Bingley’s setup, they were actually my favorite booth! They had a little Yoda and R2D2 watching over the teas and a little glass teapot.
Phoenix Herbal was next, next to Yoki, Anna Marie’s Teas (Which actually had two booths, I got a teacup candle from their second one) and London Tea Room. Yoki was another one of those booths that was always crowded, I was only able to squeeze in for about a minute before being squished out again. But they did have some great looking tea sets and matcha candies. The London tea room had some great teas to sample as well. I really enjoyed their setup as well.
A quick jaunt to the booth just outside of the tasting cafés was Single Origin Teas. I managed to snag a sample or two before heading to the presentations. In the tasting café area as well as the presentation rooms I was able to get a more in depth look at the companies and the teas they were most proud of. It was a breath of fresh air, with a lot less people to wade through. I was able to sit in at Tealet’s tasting of Nepalese teas, which is where I met fellow tea blogger, Amanda, ‘Soggy Enderman’ Wilson! Funny enough, we were right next to each other, and a mutal Instagram friend pointed out our near identical tasting cup pictures! Just when the tea was getting good, the fire alarm went off mid tasting session! We all filed out, and waited to go back in, but not before getting one last taste out of the white tea we were drinking. Luckily, nothing was actually on fire, so it was a short wait out in the humid Kansas City air. Whoever set off the alarm, we will never know. I went to the tasting session promptly after we were allowed to go back inside, hosting by the London tea room. At that time my phone had had enough of all the frenzied photographs I was taking and promptly died. My man and I stopped for an eat to bite as well as to charge my phone. While it was regaining it’s strength, we had a great lunch of period army food, ‘chipped beef’ and ‘trench stew.’ Appetizing, ain’t it?
I had some time to kill before the last presentation, so I wandered about, and ran into Elyse and Ree ‘Tulli’ from Tealet! Shooting the breeze with the fabulous and fascinating ladies at Tealet was so much fun, I would love to work with these strong and motivated people again soon!
Finally the time came, the main event was upon us! I had a friend secure us a good seat to listen to James Norwood Pratt’s thoughts on tea. He was a hit, making the easy crowd laugh and describing the intricacies of processing tea. It was a great end to a fabulous event. I had a great time, and I would not hesitate to go again next year. Next stop, Rocky Mountain Tea Fest!
Bonus points for making it through this post: I was on KC TV (channel 41) right before going to the fest! Watch me stumble over my words here.