Two things happened yesterday. The Vancouver Tea Festival ensued, and Tony Gebeley published his book. This is a book I’ve (read: most people) been spying on for a while, and it looks like it’s got everything I want in a tea book. I’d really like the physical release, but I’m not prepared to spend the over $55CAD to get it right now. For once, getting the digital release actually saves you an appreciable amount (I come from a world of ‘digital textbooks’ that save you a joke and a half, pulp books that save you actually nothing [unjokingly, literally, nothing], and a whole lot of publications that came out way before the internet and aren’t popular enough to be readily digitized). Unfortunately, that means downloading the Kindle app onto my slow little Kobo. Is that sacrilege?
Back in June I received a comment inviting me to attend the third annual Vancouver Tea Festival as a media representative. I was pretty doubtful, since I’m not much of a blog, and I actively regard any comment addressed directly to me with suspicion. Spambots are only getting smarter.
After answering, I largely forgot about the invite, since the festival was months off and I was pretty quickly swamped by summer work, summer fieldschool, and then the fall term. That mostly meant not reading and writing either, although I’ve got a stack of books and a short lists of posts planned. I tend to feel guilty whenever I read for leisure when I know I could be reading a textbook instead.
I got increasingly more anxious as the date approached (a combination of base social anxiety, and not knowing what was expected of me). The morning of, I’d downloaded the emailed invitation (“proof”) onto my phone, because I was afraid I wouldn’t be on the “list” I’d been told I would be added to (spoilers: I wasn’t on the list). Unfortunately, my antique old smartphone reset itself on the ride down, so I lost the email and didn’t have the wifi connection I needed to retrieve it.
The festival has changed venues again, and was a bit more disorganized compared to the relatively well-oiled system in place last year. I had trouble navigating the signs, and got bounced back and forth between the main check-in and the signup desk in the opposite building. Ultimately, it looked like they didn’t know where I should sign in, so I was given a cup and ushered in anyways.
About two hours later, and with the help of a exhibitor slash friend, it looked like passes had been sorted out and we went to go pick them up proper. It was at this point that the physical “Media List” was pulled out and I had a silent anxiety attack because (surprise) I wasn’t on it. I was allowed to sign in on paper though (after stuttering about getting an email) and got a pass, which was quite nice seeing as, had I the talent for it, I could have been lying out of my ass to get in without paying.
Of course, the downside of having a physical pass around my neck was the symptomatic constant, nervous laugh every time someone asked me about who I was ‘with’ followed by me uncomfortably mumbling something about having a blog. Occasionally I’d pass other people with “media” passes and very expensive, professional looking cameras. But the tag (when it wasn’t falling off–the plastic cover on mine was broken) did serve as a useful conversation starter. Damn, I need this plastic courage for geoscience conventions.
I’m lucky I had some of my geoscience student business cards in my bag, as they came in handy when people asking about my “media”, so at the very least I could quickly scribble the website down on the back. I should really do something about the mismatched URL.
That all said, I do have some honest confessions about this year’s festival. Firstly, the lack of signage. It got me lost, and for the entire first half of the festival, I thought the conventional workshop/tea tasting setup had been mostly scrapped because I couldn’t find any posters of the schedule. Only to realize there was one, tucked to the side of the inner entrance.
This was more confusing because they DID have a “Tea Tasting” sign for the second building, but since I couldn’t find a schedule, I thought it was a single, all-day event. By the time I had noticed the agenda, everything I was interested in was either over or fully booked.
The exhibition hall itself, I could have sworn was a bit smaller, and I heard a few people remark that it didn’t feel as busy (although to me, all crowds are too busy). Not exactly the fault of the planners. It was a bit disappointing to see that many of the interesting companies I’d been introduced to at the last festival, like Young Mountain Tea, weren’t present. I hope as the festival grows in coming years, a bunch of these companies will return. It was almost a little sad not to see DavidsTea, and as always I’m always disappointed when Murchie’s isn’t about. I would have liked to see TeaFarm as well, since they’ve finally come out with their first harvest of tea (imagine if they’d done a talk or workshop… sigh). Weirdly, they WERE there, in a sense. Honey Shoppe was selling some of their blends. Huh.
Although I managed to miss every single workshop and tea tasting (well, the cocktail one still had spots open, but here I am, being a no-fun teetotaler), I did manage to sit down at the gong fu booth, and even though I will agonize over every thing I said (as I am wont to do), I’ll admit it was really nice, and I had some pleasant conversations with people. I was also given a task: research Nepalese bamboo-packed heicha. I like a challenge.
For merch, I managed to keep myself under a solid budget, since I’m tight for money right now (lousy tuition), but managed to find myself a new fairway cup at least. It came with a nice wood coaster. If I remember, I’ll take a picture. From there, I picked up an oolong from Justea (to replace the one I ran out of), Oollo’s limited edition Alishan black (which I coveted last year, but which they didn’t have at the festival then), and an aged brick white from the Chinese Tea Shop. I would have picked up the pressed yue guan bai from O5 as well, but I was a few dollars short, so that kept me under budget. Oh, darn. Money saved.
In the end, I like the new location (you’re within walking distance of about three tea shops, only one of which actually made it out to the festival). The garden was very nice, and when the crowded exhibition room got overbearing, I went for a walk through it in the pouring rain with my umbrella. I regret not exploring further. The setup was great, just disorganized (but assuming they stick with the venue, better signage will fix that in the future).
I would have liked to go to one of the tastings or workshops, which looked like they were being held overlooking the garden. Next year.