Chicago is home to a diverse community of tea merchants and enthusiasts eagerly anticipating the inaugural three-day Chicago International Tea Festival in November.
The festival is produced by Taste All the Teas, led by Nicole Burriss and based in Kansas City, Mo. The company annually produces the Midwest Tea Festival. The Chicago event is Nov. 1-3 at the Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza in the River North neighborhood. The festival opens with a tea market featuring more than 40 local, regional and international vendors situated for sampling in a big auditorium.
“This festival is about so much more than browsing with the merchants. Through multiple workshops and lectures you will enhance your knowledge of everything tea,” writes Burriss. To retain the event’s focus on tea, at least half of the products on offer must be tea or tea-related items. The educational program features more than 40 speakers teaching more than 80 classes and several special events.
Attendees receive a swag bag, a tasting cup (tastings are free with cup) and an opportunity to judge the People’s Choice Taster’s Cup Tea Competition. There will be free lectures and demonstrations as well as formal classes and workshops for an additional fee. Courses are at a level useful to food and beverage industry professionals as well as the tea-loving public, making this event a unique hybrid, says Burriss.
Organizers envision an environment that is both a marketplace and an educational platform addressing wide ranging interests and experiences, she explained. “While attendees sample and shop the world of tea, the industry observes the trends first-hand,” she explained. “Opening day is packed with workshops and classes.”
“On Saturday and Sunday the public will enjoy Tasting Cafes, Food and Tea Pairings, Ceremonies and cultural experiences, with introductory level classes that include hands-on workshops, lectures, and cultural experiences. Educational opportunities for industry professionals continue,” she said. Festival-goers can participate in a Passport to Tea, a self-guided tasting tour as well as vote for the People’s Choice Award winner.
The festival closes Sunday afternoon with an Afternoon Tea Buffet and keynote talk by Lorna Reeves, editor of Tea Time Magazine, named Best Tea Publication at the 2014 World Tea Awards.
Special events include:
- Breakfast with the Rock Stars of Tea – Breakfast with Kevin Gascoyne of Camellia Sinensis, Lorna Reeves of Tea Time Magazine, Virginia Utermohlen-Lovelace of Pair Teas and more. (Additional ticket required.)
- Official Opening Ceremony – Cultural representatives from countries around the world will share their teas with each other in peace and good wishes to officially open our event and usher in a weekend of international tea connections and friendship.
- Lunch with Cultural Dignitaries – A tasting flight of teas provided by representatives of tea producing regions and countries with strong tea cultures. Representatives from Japan and Sri Lanka, of Nepal, China and India and others will be present and will talk a bit about their regions’ ties to tea. (Additional ticket required.)
- The Champagne of Teas (movie screening) – Exclusive screening of Kevin Gascoyne’s movie about Darjeeling (Additional ticket required)
- Opening Night Casual Cocktail Reception – Light nibbles and a drink to kick off your tea weekend in Chicago. (Additional ticket required.)
- Networking/Tasting Room – Semi-private with two separated areas for you to sit, prepare tea with our provided equipment, taste and discuss your business.
Organizers include: Babette Donaldson of International Tea Sippers Society, Dan Robertson of The Tea House, Agnes Rapacz of Tea Gschwendner, and Youlian Banov of The Dragon’s Treasure.
“My experience with the Midwest Tea Festival in Kansas City convinced me that Chicago was the next important venue for the U.S. tea festival scene,” said Burriss. “I’m excited to work with such an experienced team of volunteer organizers. We’re able to launch a number of innovations for both industry professionals and consumers.”
Click to see the class schedule. Instructors and lecturers include James Norwood Pratt, author; Suzette Hammond, Being Tea; Dan Bolton, Tea Journey Magazine; Bruce Richardson, Elmwood Inn Fine Tea; Virginia Utermohlen-Lovelace, MD, Pair Teas; Jeni Dodd, Jeni Dodd Teas; Tony Gebely, Tea Epicure and Hugo Tea Company; Cynthia Gold, L’Espalier; Noli Ergas, Sugimoto Tea; Jason McDonald, Great Mississippi Tea Company and more.
Lectures included in the 14-lecture Livestream Series are available for those who cannot attend due to distance. These lectures are also recorded. That means that even if you attend the festival in person (which really is the way you want to do it if you can), you can still snag this package and watch all of the lectures you missed in the Livestream classroom later at your leisure.” Please note that a la carte Livestream purchases will not be possible for those not attending the event. If you do not attend the event, the package deal is the only option available.
Vendors are encouraged to record brief, individual promotional videos for the festival’s social media campaign and their own use following the festival. Photography and filming by attendees will be promoted as sell as official recordings during the event.
CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL TEA FESTIVAL
Friday, Nov. 1 – Sunday, Nov. 3
Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza River North, Chicago, IL
Single-day admission $25, two-day pass $35 and a three-day VIP pass is $45. Tea industry professionals pay $35 for a three-day pass.