There is a special beauty in a local tea festival. One gets to enjoy the intimacy of a smaller venue. Vendors who may not have the resources to hit a national show can get their products in front of audiences. Local styles and tastes are matched and it can be a time to share a passion for tea with friends and neighbors.
There is barely a month that passes without a local tea festival somewhere in the U.S. or Canada. Already this year Toronto and Houston have played host to gatherings. This was the fourth year of Toronto’s event. Next up will be the Southwest Tea Festival on Saturday, February 27 in Las Vegas.
The Southwest Tea Festival has its origins in 2012 when Naomi Rosen of Joy’s Teaspoon hosted the Las Vegas Tea Fest. It was attended by more than 300 visitors. This year, Rosen and partner Tealet, are creating a bigger festival. Rebranded as Southwest Tea Festival there will be speakers, tea ceremonies, yoga classes and an after-party with cocktails. Tea businesses from Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah were invited to participate. The festival will also sponsor a silent auction to benefit a charity called Safe Nest, which is aimed at preventing domestic violence and supporting victims.
“I think what’s great about the local tea festival scene is that you can really cater it to your city,” says Naomi Rosen, owner of Joy’s Teaspoon and coordinator of the Southwest Tea Festival.
“Vegas = entertainment. So we paired ours with a musical line-up that is incredible. Would that work in Houston? Maybe, may not. But Houston just put on a great festival with an elaborate afternoon tea and movie screening. San Francisco’s festival is on a pier! What’s more SF than that? That’s what I love about these smaller regional fests…You get the flavor of the city mixed in with your tea.”
March finds tea lovers at the Coffee and Tea Festival NYC, an event that has had rapid growth each year, necessitating new locations regularly to accommodate more visitors. Tickets have consistently sold out well in advance of the event.
The second Midwest Tea Festival will be in Kansas City in May and the Rocky Mountain Tea Festival in Boulder, Colo. is holding its 16th event in July. The Colorado event includes workshops and presentations, a small bazaar, a tea dinner and a children’s tea. How does a show like Rocky Mountain earn such longevity and continued interest? “I think the Rocky Mountain Tea Festival has been successful because we try hard to make it an expert to consumer event,” says Sara Stewart Martinelli, proprietor of Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse. “It’s not in any way a trade show, but instead, gives the tea enthusiast an opportunity to learn from industry experts and sip some of the season’s most premium tea selections. It’s casual, but with rich content.”
The events continue in the fall. The Northwest Tea Festival will be held in October in Seattle. Last year’s event drew more than 2,500 visitors and they expect that number to top 3,000 this year. The San Francisco International Tea Festival is in its fifth year this year. Vancouver hosts its local festival in November also. The Los Angeles International Tea Festival will round out the year.
Northwest Tea Festival committee chair Julee Rosanoff has recognized the important value of these festivals and wants to encourage other communities to create their own events. Toward that goal, she will be presenting a workshop entitled “Starting a Local Tea Festival” at this year’s World Tea Expo.