Last week I made the trek to Philadelphia for World Tea East. This show wasn’t quite as successful for me as it was last year but I did find a handful of really great companies. Next year I’m going to focus more on the education conference as I was unable to attend any of that this time around. I noticed a big increase in the number of tea companies based in Africa. Many of them focused on improving the lives of the tea growers which is always great to hear.
One thing that was a little disconcerting was that many vendors had tea bags but did not understand that loose leaf is something people want or are interested in. When I inquired about loose leaf, several people told me that they don’t offer it but their tea bags taste the same. I know better than that but imagine if I had been a brand new retailer who doesn’t know the ropes yet. The spread of misinformation is not my cup of tea.
One of the things that I enjoy about this event is that it isn’t crowded. I was able to meander the aisles freely without bumping into people or waiting on long lines. I was also able to have some really great conversations with some of the vendors.
One of the highlights for me was the Dragon Tea Ceremony performed by Haiyan Grzelak of Lotus Leaf Tea. Her enthusiasm for life and tea radiated off of the stage. The audience was first treated to a musical performance on the Guzheng, an ancient Chinese instrument. Haiyan then performed a gongfu ceremony using aroma cups. She explain every step along the way and thoughtfully included both the Chinese and English descriptions.
Vintage Tea Works was the hit of the show for many people that I spoke to. Their blends are inspired by wine and very well crafted. The owner of the company was knowledgeable about both wine and tea and I was very impressed.
I have a major sweet tooth and I am a sucker for good ice cream so I was super excited to see Tea-rrific! Ice Cream. Their flavors were well done. I loved that they respected the tea while making varieties that were different from others that have been available in the marketplace. We also had a funny coincidence because the owner of the company used to live in the town in New Jersey where I am from.
My favorite tea of the whole show was the ancient moonlight white tea from Wild Tea Qi. I have never had anything quite like it. It was aromatic and had an incredibly complex floral taste. It made me wish that I hadn’t had any other tea that day as my palate was a bit overwhelmed. I’ve seen this company at a number of shows and have been very impressed by their knowledge of tea and the tea making process. They know the names of all of their farmers, which is something that you don’t often see.
A trip to Philadelphia wouldn’t be complete without a cheese steak. I took a break from tea to scarf one down at Carmine’s Famous Italian Hoagies in the Reading Terminal Market. This place is foodie heaven and I had a hard time choosing where and what to eat.
Before heading home, I took a rainy wander through Chinatown in hopes of finding some tea. Unfortunately I did not find anything that couldn’t be found close to home but I still enjoyed checking out all of the stores.