As the tea industry grows, tea festivals are becoming more relevant as they offer many benefits for tea purveyors and consumers alike. Tea festivals are appearing in cities across the United States and abroad and provide a venue in which the public can learn more about tea first hand from industry professionals.
In the United States, tea festivals have sprouted up in Seattle, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boulder and Portland. Outside of the U.S. several countries, including Canada, Australia, China, South Korea and India, are hosting popular tea festivals annually.
The goal of tea festivals is to put tea suppliers and tea retailers in touch with people who want to buy and drink tea, said Julee Rosenoff, co-founder of the Northwest Tea Festival in Seattle, which draws more than 3,000 attendees. Vendors and exhibitors expand their customer base and customers get to taste and learn about rare teas and where to purchase them. Festivals give consumers a wide variety of options outside of what is typically offered in grocery stores.
Festival attendees have the chance to dig deeper into the tea world by going to educational workshops that cover topics surrounding tea, such as: tea’s history, the health properties of tea and herbs, blending tea, and more. People walk away with a greater understanding of different aspects of tea.
Tea festivals also offer the important sensory experience of tea tastings. When shopping for tea, the average customer usually has to make a decision based on packaging and advertising. Tea tastings allow people to see, smell and taste teas and make informed decisions about products.
“Tea festivals create this world for the consumers, but each festival is really different,” said Babette Donaldson, co-organizer of the San Francisco Tea Festival and founder of the International Tea Sippers Society, who added, “Some festivals have fewer exhibitors but a lot more education; but even exhibitors are teachers so even if attendees just walk around to booths they learn so much.”
Festivals spread each tea purveyor’s particular vision of tea beyond what they can do at a brick and mortar store, or even online, said Rosenoff.
“Every organizer is doing this because we love it and we really want to bring the public in to experience tea hands-on, face-to-face, in a way that we can’t do using YouTube videos or any other social media,” said Donaldson. “It’s being physically together one-on-one and preparing tea and sharing tea that is the education that most of the new consumers really want and need.”
Furthermore, if a tea company has a new product or blend, bringing it to a festival is a great way to test the market, said Donaldson.
Tea festivals also give tea industry professionals the chance to connect with each other, and the World Tea Expo will offer another such opportunity. People who have ever been involved in or want to become involved in tea festivals can share their feedback with Rosenoff and Midwest Tea Festival organizer Nicole Burris, at the World Tea Expo on Tuesday, June 11 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in room N252. The purpose of this open meeting is to share what is effective at tea festivals, as well as any shortcomings, and share ideas for the future.
“Even if it’s talking about what kind of software people are using to do their ticketing,” said Rosenoff. The objective is to share a broad range of information and learning experiences in order to help one another. “It’s a sharing of ideas about festivals, because they’re not all the same,” said Rosenoff, who wants to support festivals that are in existence while promoting the launching of new ones.