Top Tasters Go 10 for 10 in Vancouver


The Tea Association of Canada challenged attendees to test their skills as a tea sommelier at the annual Canadian Coffee & Tea Show last week.

Contestants had to identify 10 tea styles. Three out of two dozen contestants aced the test. They include Paul Higgins Jr. from Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee, Judy Lin from T-Buds and Rasoul Salehi.

Organizers of the annual Canadian Coffee & Tea Show said tea vendors were the fastest growing segment and attendees clearly showed interest in teaware and various tea importers and blenders.

The event, held annually, is hosted by Fulcrum Media, a Toronto events and publishing company. The Vancouver edition is the first West Coast show in three years. Several thousand attendees visited 250 vendors at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Tea Association of Canada President Louise Roberge emceed the blind tasting panel which tested the ability of tasters to identify the type of tea and origin. Samples brewed ranged from greens produced in China and Japan to Taiwan oolongs to Indian Darjeeling along with black teas from Africa and Sri Lanka.

Shabnam Weber and Riley Richman
Shabnam Weber and Riley Richman score tasters.

The association also conducted a two-day intensive training program for sommeliers led byTea Emporium founder Shabnam Weber, a member of the Association's Board of Directors . Four week courses to become a tea sommelier are offered at local community colleges in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto.

“Much like a wine expert does, they take into account the ideal tea to drink with food, after a meal or on its own. Tea sommeliers work behind the scenes as well creating the perfect tea list to compliment a menu, training staff how to serve the perfect cup of tea and how to assist their guests in choosing the tea that’s right for them,” says Roberge.

She later led a delegation of Chinese officials that included Zhou Guo Fu, Chairman of China International Tea Cultural Institute and Deputy Director-General of the Committee for Learning and Cultural and Historical Data.

Greg Lui, marketing manager at Black Tusk Trading, displayed the firm’s Esprit Teas and discussed the remarkable increase in matcha. The company imported eight metric tons last year with about 40 percent of shipments destined for Canada.

TeaVacTightVac introduced a new TeaVac line that creates a vacuum seal for freshness. Founder Justin Marquis has sold more than five million Tightvacs
to the tea industry in Asia. He says tea leaves will remain fresh in a sealed Tightvac for more than a year.
At the Libre booth founder Wendy Weir displayed a new 10-oz. mug and 14-oz. tea travelers with glass internal chambers, tough polycarbonate exterior and stainless steel filter. The design accommodates tea with short steep times as well as long. They retail from $25 – $33.

Vipul Goel, founder and CEO of A Cup of Chai in Brampton, Ont. demonstrated the ease and consistency of instant chai mixes. The chai is suited to machine dispensing. One hundred stores stock the line and appreciate the fact “there is no recipe or ritual” just consistently good Chai, he says.

Sales Director Marshall Harting at the Rishi Tea booth was sampling the firm’s latest innovation, a blend of Iron Goddess of Mercy oolong and dried peaches with a touch of hibiscus and licorice root.

Stash teaThe STASH tea booth featured new packaging with colorful hues and simple images. Chai Spice and Moroccan Mint green tea were favorites.

Joane Filler Varty, Mighty Leaf vice president of hospitality sales & development, said the San Rafael California-based tea company is prospering in Canada. The tea does well in foodservice as a premium offering, she says. Canadians have a great appreciation of fine tea and while most drink their tea hot, Mighty Leaf is also getting traction with its iced teas, she says.

At the AOI Tea Company booth Japanese matcha was the drink of choice. The company recently introduced a Super Fine Matcha SF Series that has a particle size of less than 10um compared to the more traditinoal ground tea with a particle size of 15um. Spokesperson Chieko Yamamoto said the tea is easier to blend into smoothies and lattesand leaves less sediment. The tea tastes creamier and mixes well with other teas.

Saunam Bhattacharjee, president of the Assam Tea Company, headquartered in Burnaby, B.C. was very enthusiastic about his experience. He explained that his was the first tea farming family from Assam to setup a warehousing facility in United States and sell directly to consumers online. Eventually wholesale buyers followed their lead. The firm has prospered because offerings are fresh, chemical-free and convenient.