PS: These posts portray the opinions of the author. Strong they may be, always be aware “to each their own.” If you want to do things ‘wrong,’ do it wrong. Happy steeping!
Make the Most of a Tea Festival
So, you’ve decided to attend a tea festival? It is easy to get lost in the many times massive and boisterous crowd. But more importantly, you will come across countless tea samples that may number far beyond your caffeine intake for one day. So how do we traverse the crowd and make the most of your visit?
MY BEST ADVICE:
Take a Class / Workshop
In my opinion, classes & workshops taught at tea festivals are the most beneficial part. If a class or workshop you are interested in costs and digs into your tea buying budget, I say skip the tea and go learn instead. The amount you can learn from 1 single class can change your entire outlook of tea.
Take a Risk
Don’t rule out one type of tea. I was, and still sort of am, guilty of this. Don’t usually like the taste of a tea from a specific area or just don’t prefer any black (red) teas? Take a chance and try a sample. To stay safe, you may want to ask for a small amount. Don’t forget to remember to ‘stand back’ and let the tea take hold and release all its flavors and essence.
OTHER GREAT ADVICE:
Eliminate Certain Types
This is the hardest step and can be one that might end up being a mistake. In all honesty, I find this step works very well, especially if the festival’s last two days, and you plan to attend both days. Think about what teas you are looking for. I often propose you split the two days into caffeinated tea and caffeine-free herbals. This is usually because herbal tea can taint your taste buds and vice versa.
Which One First?
If you’re interested in both, try to figure out which of these two you are looking for the most. Do you hope to find the most or wish to find a special prize? It is critical to know that teas AND herbals can sell out on the first day. Choose which one wisely as you may end up regretting that missed purchase.
If You’ve Chosen Tea First
There are a lot of ways to approach this. Many people go from booth to booth trying to taste as many teas in order to find the very one they love or are looking for. This is perhaps the biggest mistake one can make. A tea’s taste won’t always show up immediately. Many can take a few seconds to show their true beauty. Make sure you take a step back and concentrate on what you are tasting and feeling from the tea you just served.
Talk with the Vendors
Having a small chat with the person pouring you the tea, or the owner, can be beneficial in many ways. Of course, you can learn about their business but also make sure to ask about the tea you were just served. There’s no need to ask specifics, and if you are a novice, try to make sure the person behind the counter is speaking at your level. It is also important to note that taking this time to talk to the vendor makes a suitable pause for you to not only center on the tea but also wait for the next one.
Slow Down There
Sipping all the teas fast and furious is one mistake even I started with. As stated above, teas can take time to reveal their beauty. Another reason to take a pause is to reset you’re brain and taste buds so that the next sample you taste is from a fresh perspective and most likely a purged tongue, a tongue that doesn’t still taste the previous tea. Imagine sipping a very smoky lapsang Souchong then you go to sample a very light green tea. Now even though a short pause might not take all the smoke away, it will certainly dissipate.
Go in Order of Tea Strength
Yes, as you know, many teas can overpower others. Many vendors sample a wide variety from light and delicate to heavy and dark. It is vital to try the more delicate teas before the heavy ones. I notice all too often that people tend to block the servers and keep you from tasting a particular tea. Maybe the entire booth is blocked. Remember that this is good. Not only does it mean the vendor is getting attention, but you also need to take time talking to the vendor. You too will end up blocking others from direct access to the tea. If the lighter tea at a vendor is blocked, don’t go straight for the empty line in front of the darker tea, wait in the queue until it is your turn. One tip is to sample the easy-to-get-to tea sample but don’t continue to the lighter ones that are blocked by fellow question-asking tea fans.
Why Not Lump the Teas?
As I said above, say that green teas, on this particular day, are the crowd-pleasers attracting most people to them. In this case or a milder scenario, I find it interesting to go from vendor to vendor to sample very similar teas. For example, try only lighter teas from each booth and wind up to the darker teas.
Listening to another’s conversation can be very beneficial. They could be asking a question about the tea you would never have thought of. Perhaps you could join the conversation to get a better understanding or propose further questions. While doing this make sure to say your Please & Thank You’s.
If you like a specific tea but don’t know how to steep it, you could always ask the vendor. Sometimes there are basic instructions on the package or website. If the vendor is steeping the tea stand and watch patiently to see what they do. Perhaps a downside to this is that they are preparing tea for a large crowd of people than just you or a few people. Steeping teas for a few can be very different than steeping teas for the masses.