San Francisco International Tea Festival banner from 2012. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
The 3rd Annual San Francisco International Tea Festival is scheduled for Sunday, November 16 at 10 a.m. Held at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, the festival is a gathering of tea vendors other related business owners, along with tea scholars and tea drinkers from all over California. The festival website reads: “Discover teas straight from local and global producers, Free swag bag includes your very own teacup to savor tea market offerings, Taste hundreds of different types of tea, Connect with five of the biggest names in tea, Learn how each cup of tea can be a different experience, Enjoy a meal and shopping in the Historic Ferry Building Marketplace, Live music by local artists.”
The event features an exhibit hall where the industry participants offer free samples of some of their tea products, along with tea, tea books, and tea equipment for sale. There are formal tea tastings and educational lectures from tea experts like the Imperial Tea Court’s Roy Fong, and popular tea and food author and speaker James Norwood Pratt. Well-known local tea brands are represented among the vendors, including Harney & Sons, Ito En, and The Republic of Tea. The teas that are featured are high-quality, almost all loose-leaf, with a focus on unflavored teas, and tea as a beverage, rather than “Tea” as a social event.
The event will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the 16th; admission is $25 per person, which gets you into the main exhibit hall, and perhaps into the lectures, although the formal tea tastings are first-come-first-served and cost $5 each. Tickets can be purchased from the festival website, and may also be available at the door on the day of the festival. Each attendee also receives a gift bag with more tea samples from the vendors, a special tea tasting cup to use at the festival, and contact information for all the vendors at the festival.
The Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
The first annual San Francisco International Tea Festival last weekend was a success! All available tickets sold out ahead of time, and the upstairs hall and conference rooms at the Ferry Building were full of Bay Area tea-lovers attending the lectures, tea ceremonies, tea demonstrations and other activities. The guests were greeted at the door by the Festival staff, who collected the tickets and exchanged them for a gift bag containing a handful of tea samples, brochures from tea vendors, and an official tasting cup with the San Francisco International Tea Festival logo.
Roy Fong, founder of Imperial Tea Court, and Norwood Pratt, celebrated
Roy Fong and Norwood Pratt opening the San Francisco International Tea Festival, 2012. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
tea author and speaker, opened the festival with informative and humorous speeches. Young women from the Yunnan region of China appeared in traditional dress to hand out beaded pendant necklaces for good luck, and the vendors began their tea tastings. Attendees went from booth to booth viewing the tea and other products from around 15 tea companies, tasting the various teas and other foods, including tea-infused ginger ale and chocolates. Meanwhile, the various lectures and demonstrations began, including “The History of Tea in the United States” with Norwood Pratt, “The Great Teas of China” with Roy Fong, “The Healing Power of Green Tea” with author Ying Compestine, “Green Teas of Japan” with Rona Tison of ITO EN, “Great Teas of India” with Devan Shah of International Tea Importers, “Northern Japanese Tea Report” with Masahiro Takada from Kyoto, and “Rooibos, the Wonder Herb from South Africa” with Kristina Richens from The Republic of Tea.
Tea smoked mushrooms on crostini from the "Cooking with Tea" demonstration. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
As for demonstrations, many vendors offered samples and exhibitions of their products; Roy Fong led a Gongfu Tea Ceremony, and Masahiro Takada led two Chakabuki Japanese Tea Ceremonies. There was also a book signing with Babette Donaldson upstairs in the conference hall, and with Norwood Pratt, Scott Chamberlin Hoyt, and Phil Cousineau at Book Passage, a book store downstairs in the marketplace. A few cooking demonstrations, including “Cooking with Tea” with chef and author Robert Wemischner, were on the schedule, as was a screening of the documentary The Meaning of Tea.
Harney & Sons Fine Teas. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
Lectures and demonstrations were standing-room only, and there was even a bit of a snafu when a group of people entering the tea ceremony room were surprised to discover, despite the announcement at the opening of the festival and the notice in the program, that they had to sign up in advance for the tea ceremonies and couldn’t just go in early and sit down! However, there were plenty of things to do, with the festival happening on the same day as the farmer’s market with all the market vendors open as well. The space given to the tea festival was a little smaller than I had anticipated, but the organizers didn’t know what to expect from the first International Tea Festival in San Francisco, so next year’s festival will surely be bigger. The tea celebrities were very accessible, especially the authors signing their books, which made it easy to chat with them one-on-one. All the tickets sold out in advance, so that’s a good sign that there will be a second San Francisco International Tea Festival in 2013!
Copyright 2012, Elizabeth Urbach.
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For more information:
San Francisco International Tea Festival website
“San Francisco International Tea Festival happens this Saturday!”
“San Francisco International Tea Festival: February 25, 2012”
“1st Annual San Francisco International Tea Festival” review from Tantalizing Tidbits blog
“Where to buy Chinese tea in the San Jose area”
“Tea-tasting San Jose area day trips: San Francisco’s Chinatown”
“Japanese tea from San Jose’s Japantown”
“How to prepare matcha tea”
“Review: Orange Blossom 100% White Tea from The Republic of Tea”
Imperial Tea Court
James Norwood Pratt, Tea Society
Ying Chang Compestine
International Tea Importers
The Republic of Tea
“Gongfu (Chinese) tea ceremony, 2011 World Tea Expo” video on Youtube
Scott Chamberlin Hoyt interview
The Meaning of Tea project website
Phil Cousineau website
Robert Wemischner Cooking with Tea book webpage
“Spring soba salad with matcha tea-marinated tofu” recipe from Chef Wemischner, presented at the tea festival