4th Annual Victoria Tea Festival

Last weekend I attended the 4th Annual Victoria Tea Festival. Delicious fun! It’s sponsored by Victoria’s Silk Road—as well as the Butchart Gardens, The Empress Hotel, etc—and is like a trade show, with all kinds of local shops and tea sellers—and fudgemakers, bakeries, and art studios besides—setting up tables, selling wares, explaining their products, and serving tea and samples of all kinds of delicious goodies. It was somewhat pricey for a poor starving student, at $25 at the door, but I’d gone last year and promised myself I’d go back. From all the tea and food I sampled, I’d say it was worth it.

There were all kinds of teas: matcha, yerba mate, an entire rainbow of varieties of blacks, greens, semi-greens, oolong, white, rooibus, and I love all of them. Except matcha (green tea powder). I like matcha in food—in cookies, in ice cream—but I hate the taste of it alone. But the other teas! It was a real tastebud-opener to try the same blends from different merchants. I tried at least two or three different pomegranate rooibus teas, for example, each with its own subtle difference. (Murchie’s was pretty good.)

And the food! Bubby Rose’s Bakery had a table spread out with sumptuous yummies: matcha cookies, carrot cake, brownies, lemon squares, multiple kinds of cookie, among other things, and at the end of the table, non-sugary things: Jamaican tortano and…something else? with a mouth-wateringly incredible mango chutney. It’s a bit out of the way, but I’ve vowed to go to Bubby Rose’s sometime this year. (Anyone reading this in the Vic area: check it out. Yum!)

There was also a vendor with goat cheese. Mm. Fancy cheeses.

There were several presentations going on during the two-day festival. I attended two. The first was a Chinese Tea Ceremony presentation put on by the owner of Silk Road, an elegant woman who is, apparently, a Tea Master, which means that, among other feats, she can tell at what boiling stage water is in just by listening to it. I don’t know much about tea ceremonies in general, but I can now tell you that the Chinese ceremony consists of steeping the leaves multiple times to bring out the true flavour of the tea. I intend to do further research.

The second presentation was cooking with tea—yes, cooking—with Chef Heidi Fink. She made a jasmine tea sorbet, chai butter, and a salad dressing with, if I remember right, lapsang souchong (a smoky tea). All mouth-wateringly amazing. Definitely as good as anything from Bubby Rose’s. I plan on making the chai butter at some point, and making granitas (a cheap man’s ice cream with a fancy name) with tea this summer. Stay tuned for my adventures in the world of tea cooking!

I planned, I vowed, to not buy anything apart from admission. Then I sampled Teafarm’s Mysteaque, a blend of licorice root, lemongrass, peppermint and calendula. The peppermint and lemongrass sparkled on my tongue at the initial sip; as I swallowed licorice coated the sides of my tongue and mouth, leaving a pleasant aftertaste that did not overstay its welcome. I don’t even like licorice. I highly recommend this tea.

I saw some lovely tea paraphernalia I just had to have—but resisted, due to the gaping emptiness of my bank account. So these things will wait until I have money. Although, personally, I’m hoping this summer my friends will band together and buy me the glass tea set (and votive candle warmer) from Serious Coffee for my birthday this summer. It’s only $21, with the teapot warmer only about $5 more. And my sister got me some blossoming teas this Christmas that deserve to be shown in a lovely teapot.

Yixing clay teapots are one of those things I’ll have to wait awhile to purchase, too. A good-quality, artistic, wonderful Yixing teapot… Well, they’re damn pricey. But the thing about the Yixing clay is that it absorbs the flavour of the tea, making it more valuable as it is used. You have to use only a certain kind of tea in it, of course, but legend says that if it’s been used enough all you have to do is pour in the boiling water and you’ll get tea, from the flavour remaining in the pot. They’re also beautiful, see:

All in all, the Tea Festival was a great experience, informative and with a such a soothing, polite vibe. I think next time I’d like to attend as a volunteer, however.