The Chicago Tea Festival is one of the events that I was looking forward to most this year. Last year was so much fun! Coronavirus had other ideas, and in-person events will not be happening for quite some time. Thankfully the organizers decided to pivot by transitioning to the International Virtual Tea Festival. I wasn’t sure what to expect since this was an entirely new platform, but I’m happy to report that it was an awesome tea-filled weekend.
I completely forgot that I had purchased a Tea Lover’s Pass so I was pleasantly surprised to receive a box in the mail. Similar to what would be given out at the in-person festival, there were tea samples from vendors along with coupons and an issue of Tea Time Magazine. There were also two ceramics teacups to add to my collection.
The festival was hosted on a platform called Pathable that allowed you to access the sessions through Zoom calls and pre-recorded videos. The majority of them were free, but there was also quite a large number of paid classes. The two I signed up for were I regrettably signed up a bit late, so tasting classes weren’t an option. The teas just wouldn’t have gotten to me in time. That is something I will try to keep in mind for next time.
Even without tasting classes, there was still a full agenda for both Saturday and Sunday. The sessions that I watched ranged from tours of beautiful tea plantations and Japanese ceramics to a deep dive into water quality. I really enjoyed being able to watch at my own pace. There wasn’t quite time to watch everything, but my ticket gives me access to the videos for a few more weeks.
One of my favorite things about going to tea festivals is getting to walk around the show floor. Tasting tea, hanging out with friends, and meeting new people are all things I wish I could do right now. The vendor floor for this event featured many familiar companies, as well as a few new ones. Each one had a page set up with links to their websites as well as any specials they might be having. Several vendors had a posted schedule of events planned.
There was also an option for you to visit each company’s virtual booth. This aspect was both cool and awkward at the same time. Visiting the booth started a Zoom call, and you never really knew what you were going to be walking into. If this event is held online again in the future, I think I’ll coordinate with friends so that I’m not doing it all by myself. That would make it a bit more like in-person events since I am usually running around with my fellow tea bloggers.
Tea Blogger’s Roundtable
This was the first virtual Tea Blogger’s Roundtable, and it was a great one. I couldn’t help getting a little choked up when we opened by raising our teacups to our recently departed friend, Darlene Meyers Perry. Our focus was on how coronavirus has affected us all creatively. I always love hearing different perspectives from my fellow bloggers. They all inspire me to keep going, even when times are difficult. The panel included:
- Sara – Tea Happiness
- Daniela – Tea Cachai
- Danielle – Tea and Me
- Ricardo – My Japanese Green Tea
- Anna – The Tea Squirrel
- Verna – Straight from the Leaf
- Geoff – Steep Stories
- Robert – Lord Devotea’s Tea Sprouts
This might have been one of our biggest audiences yet, and they had great questions for the panel. I have missed my tea friends so much. It was great to spend a few hours with them talking about tea and life in these strange times.
I want to send a huge thank you to the festival organizers, Nicole Burris and Babbette Donaldson! They put in so much hard work pulling this event together. I cannot wait until we can all have tea together again, but this really was the next best thing.
Did you attend the International Virtual Tea Festival? What were your favorite classes? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!