Devan Shah Tea Festival Meets Goals for Growing Public Festivals

Julee Rosenoff, James Norwood Pratt and Faith Bailes; photo courtesy of Faith Bailes

The Devan Shah International Tea Festival – Los Angeles drew more than 1,500 attendees to the Pasadena Convention Center Dec. 2-3. Devan Shah founded International Tea Importers and the Chado Tea Rooms, and though he passed in 2016, his legacy lives on in what has become one of the country’s largest tea festivals.

“Devan Shah was a charismatic gentleman who absolutely loved tea and he loved educating people about tea,” said Julee Rosenoff, who founded the Northwest Tea Festival in 2008 and consulted on and worked at the Devan Shah Tea Festival. Years ago, Shah was inspired by the Northwest Tea Festival and then started his tea festival in Los Angeles in 2011.

Initially, the festival was held at the Japanese American Museum in Los Angeles. Pursuant to Devan Shah’s wishes, his nephew, Dhavel Shah, moved the tea festival to the Pasadena Convention Center.

“The purpose of tea festivals is to provide education to the general public about tea in all of its cultural aspects, as well as all of the different varieties of teas that are available,” Rosenoff said, “to make tea more available to people and to make them more comfortable with the process of making tea.”

Not only can a tea festival open the many facets of the tea world to the public, but it can also make tea more enjoyable.

Devan Shah Tea Festival; photo courtesy of Faith Bailes

Faith Bailes, co-founder of the World Tea Expo, said, “Devan did a lot for tea education. He supported the World Tea Expo, he was a major sponsor of the Specialty Tea Institute program, and he was responsible for publishing the first tea dictionary. He was also a recipient of our Lifetime Achievement Award at World Tea Expo.”

Bailes gave a class at the festival on How to Plan the Perfect Tea Party in which she focused on the importance of giving special attention to details.

The Devan Shah Tea Festival – Los Angeles offered a broad range of classes, including: how to become a tea sommelier, how to pair tea with cheese and chocolate, and Taiwanese oolong cupping and grading, to name a few.

Devan Shah Tea Festival; photo courtesy of Faith Bailes

Trending at the festival were matcha and pu-erh, which both had strong showings. Rosenoff noticed a trend in teas from the Himalayas; from places like Sikkim, Nepal and Tibet. Bailes observed a lot of interest from millennials, who are drawn to tea for its health benefits. There were also food products that incorporated tea, such as matcha cheesecake.

Rosenoff added that a tea festival is also a good place to network, share information and ideas and get to know others in the tea industry.

“There are so many different categories, leaf styles and ways to enjoy tea,” Bailes said. “That is what I feel is so important about these festivals—they teach people all about the wonderful variety of teas.” She went on to say, “Until we educate people so they go into a store and ask for these things, the tea industry isn’t going to grow to its full potential. Educating people about tea, especially at these tea festivals, is really paramount and it needs to be a focus for the tea industry. I think it’s going to make the future of tea bright.”