Exhibitors of the Vancouver Tea Festival

I thought I’d break my experiences at the VTF down into more than one post; I realize I have a tendency to ramble, and the least I can do is break up the flow.

The second annual VTF wasn’t huge. I’ve been to huge conventions. It was a good size though, and busy as all hell. There were a lot of familiar logos about, and then some that I didn’t even know existed, let alone operated in the Lower Mainland.

O5 – This was my constant, pretty much. It’s the shop I’m most familiar with, so it ended up my ‘home base’ as I circled around. I’ve been introduced to Pedro a few times, but we don’t really chat. O5 is the beginning of ethically-sourced, small-production tea companies, of which there were a NUMBER at the convention. It was great to see.

JusTea – I remember their original campaign, and a few early posts from them on Steepster. Grayson was there, with his son(s?); it was a busy booth, but I did manage the courage to at least say hello, and I tried to strike up a conversation on the profile differences between their handcrafted black and Mt Kenya black, but there were so many other people there it wasn’t much of a conversation. I wanted to say ‘I’m so happy you made it to grocery stores’ and ‘Mt Kenya is my favourite, it’s dark and fruity and has changed the way I view African teas’ and ‘the handcrafted oolong is wonderful reminds me so strongly of a native-grown Taiwanese black’. But. Welp. I said hello, at least. As stated, I already owned Mt Kenya and Handcrafted oolong going in, but managed to pick up my personally-coveted Handcrafted black, which I was looking forward to comparing with Mt Kenya. They had a talk directly after Young Mountain’s, but I regret I missed it because I got completely distracted chatting about comicbooks at a certain booth.

Lumbini Tea – This was one of the companies I didn’t know about going in (I did my research, but they weren’t even listed on the VTF’s list of exhibitor when I initially looked; I guess they were added to the list late). They’re a direct-from-source Sri Lankan company that gets all of their teas from the Lumbini gardens. I remember circling around back to them at the convention several times because I was intrigued by the bags of hand-crafted teas they had set up behind their main products. There were golden-tipped rings and black, as well as curls. They only had one sample out to try, but so many different black teas on sale. I finally came back around right when everyone was packing up shop, and bought a box. There wasn’t much explaining the difference between their blacks, and I didn’t want to be a bother while they were busy packing up. Since we didn’t chat much, I’m sure I stuck out as an oddball. I hope they return next year. Lazyliteratus’ post has me even more interested in their tea-rings.

Pure Leaf – This sort of gave me a laugh. They’re a grocery-store brand of iced teas. They appeared on the scene last year or so, I think; at least that’s when I noticed them in-stores. I took a liking to them because they had a sugar-free tea, which I still pick up on occasion (when I can find it; it’s not as popular as their sweetened and fruity teas). They were pretty much just there handing out bottles of iced tea. It was refreshing.

Crimson Lotus – A company that came up from the states. They enjoy a meager fame on Steepster, so I knew of them going in. They brought up a beautiful tea-table to show off and brew tea for people on. Their prices were painstakingly converted from US to CAD, which made everything expensive as heck due to the poor Canadian dollar at the time. I didn’t do too well at conversation the first time I passed by, but I got introduced later on. I wanted to go home with a small brick, but alas at least I picked up Jerry from here.

Cultivate Tea – They opened up across from Shaktea some time last year, during the two-year break between tea festivals. So it was nice to see them come out. Shaktea was actually here too, but I didn’t linger too much at their booth. Cultivate is one of the shops (alongside O5) that offers home-made kombucha. And iced tea. Their owner is boisterous, but friendly, and I do like visiting their shop. I didn’t see anything new from what I saw last in their shop, so I let other people have at the booth and didn’t buy anything.

Young Mountain Tea – Another direct-source company, they’re helping pioneer tea-growing in lesser-known regions of India. I went to the seminar, and really enjoyed it. I may or may not have geeked out about tea books and history with the founder after (Raj; he’s a really cool guy). They premiered an early harvest of the white tea being made in Kumaon.

Oollo Tea – I first discovered them through the Vancouver Tea Society (I’m not a member, but I often stalk their facebook for chatter about new companies). The owner sources from family living in Taiwan. It’s a great company, and though it doesn’t have its own shop, it’s usually sold in a reoccurring popup shop off Robson. They also sell iced teas of their teas, and, occasionally, microbatches of icecream made from them. The Red Jade icecream is phenomenal by the way. Being winter, they didn’t have any at the festival. I was hoping they’d have some of their limited edition Alishan black on-hand to sell at the festival, but it didn’t look like it.

The Chinese Tea Shop – I was bashfully recognized. I haven’t been down to Chinatown in a long while, I should put that on my ‘to do’ list. We spoke about yabao (apparently its popularity’s waned, and that’s why he hasn’t been able to source more of it) and moonlight puer (which was recently getting a bit of fame on Steepster). He mostly had out puer teas to try.

The Tea Guy – I sort of knew OF the company, I recognized the logo, but their booth was too busy for me to really get near and look around. Looked like a few interesting teas though.

Capilano Tea House – A native-run company that does teas and soda. There were a few blends that interested me, but by then I didn’t have enough money… Weaver’s Blend in particular, off their website. Warm Grey as well, maybe Greeting the Sun. Next year, maybe. I’ll bring more money.

6 Mountains Tea – I looked into them before coming, and wasn’t sure what to expect. Their site didn’t have a huge selection, and seemed to favour flavoured puers. But they were sampling some truly vintage puers on-site, which was pretty cool, although I haven’t the palate to make any comments on them. A 20 year old and a 40 year old sheng. I got a partial introduction later.

Tea Association of Canada – They had a booth advertising information about tea, as well as the Tea Sommelier program. Their booth was a bit sparse, and probably could have been boosted with course and program lists from VCC, which offers the programs needed to get certified as a Tea Sommelier (unless they did have handouts, I didn’t see any).

DavidsTea – To be expected, but I kinda wanted to mention their conduct at the tea festival. It was solid. A+. This is a festival of mostly independent, and small-business tea sellers (with the occasional representative from out-of-country). Davidstea’s booth was sparse. They were sampling a number of teas (their new winter blends–including Cardamom French Toast, tasty), but selling absolutely nothing. There was nothing on the booth expect their dispensers. I thought it was really very respectful of them. They’re showing their support for Vancouver tea by being there, but made the choice not to dominate the festival by selling anything. It’s the little things that count.

These were mostly just the companies that stood out to me, though there were a number more, mostly ones I didn’t look too closely at or were too busy for me to get a look at. Most of those were companies based more strongly around flavoured teas.

There were also a number of companies that I WISH had been here, and I can only hope the VTF will circle in gossip as a success and they’ll show up next year.

Cowichan Valley Tea Farm – Need I say much. That would have been awesome. I still haven’t heard anything of their first harvest, but their tea trees are still young (just over four years), and the first harvest is usually not the best (the trees will only improve with age).

Treasure Green Tea – They’re just down the street from the Vancouver Tea Festival, and I always hear great things about the shop and the owner, although I’ve never been down that way to check it out. (Maybe also Ten Ren Tea, which is just up the street from them).

DOMO Tea – One Dragon’s Den tea company was at the festival already, it would have been rad to see DOMO as well (seeing as there were a few matcha companies). (Maybe Do-Matcha too; they’re also Canadian).

Murchie’s – There’s so many tea shops opening up in the lower mainland, it seems important to me that we don’t forget our history. Murchie’s has had to downsize, but I still love them and wish they’d been able to set something up.

A transgendered, tea-drinking, rock-hammer wielding, mineral-collecting, fashionable, mid-twenties Canadian.

4 Comments

  1. So many brands and teas to try :D This is why I love the tea world.

  2. Del Tamborini

    07/06/2016 at 4:25 AM

    Thanks for your delightful review of the festival! We’re somehow only just seeing this now, but really appreciate that you took the time to recap your experience. Regarding the companies on your wishlist for the next festival this year, all I can tell you is that we have approached most of the ones you listed – some were among the first companies we contacted prior to our inaugural festival in 2013 – and it has been their choice not to participate in the festival despite our best efforts. It’s not for lack of trying on our part, believe me!

    Also, as you may have seen on our FB page, we’re happy to share the news that this year’s Vancouver Tea Festival will be held on Saturday, November 5th, at our new partner venue, Dr. Sun Yat-sen Classical Chinese Garden, and the adjacent Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver. (I’d be happy to provide a media pass to the festival if you’re interested in attending; please email me your details at the address linked to my comment)

    Thanks again for the write-up about last year’s festival!

    Warmest wishes,

    Del Tamborini
    Co-founder & Executive Director, Vancouver Tea Festival

    • AJ

      07/06/2016 at 10:50 PM

      I know it’s difficult for a few companies to invest time and money into making it out to the Festival, but I suspect they’ll come around as the VTF makes a name for itself in the coming years. I did catch the update (the other day), and am definitely planning on attending, assuming nothing comes up. Having to upgrade to a bigger venue each year to keep up with popularity seems like a happy problem to have.

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