After missing the rain for most of the previous week I woke up Saturday morning to a torrential downpour. It was raining cats and dogs while I packed up the car and checked out of the hotel, but fortunately things slowed down once we got on the road. It's a good thing too because my mother and I ended up driving around for an hour trying to get to the National World War I Museum where the Midwest Tea Festival was taking place. I got a nice, yet frustrating tour of the Kansas City area near Crown Center since most of the roads were blocked off for the Hospital Hill Run. I didn't let the headache of getting to the festival get me down, even though the Liberty Memorial, which extends above most of the buildings in the area, was mocking me with every turn.
It was well after 10:45 once I made it through registration, gathered my goody bag, tasting cup, and got my bearings. I completely missed the Best in Show Judging (congrats to Tea Market, their Happy Tea won first place) and tickets for both Tasting Cafés were gone (although I did sneak in to one later when I spotted an empty seat.) I spent some time in the vendor room before heading off to sit in on some of the presentations.
Kyle Rutliff from Shang Tea gave a talk about Brick Aged White Tea & The Wonders of Unglazed Porcelain. He passed around a vessel from Shang Tea owner Zehua Shang so we could see it up close and personal, as well as a brick of Wild White Tea. The leaves are harvested every four years from trees on an abandoned plantation.
The audience was also told that if they took nothing else away from the presentation today we were to remember not to wash our teaware with soap.
Here is James Orrock from Single Origin Teas during his presentation about processing tea leaves. It was a fascinating talk. He even handed out bags of leaves so everyone could practice rolling tea. During his presentation I found out that he got his start as a citrus grower in Florida. He had hoped to plant his tea between the orange trees to keep them well shaded and thinking that perhaps they would also pick up some citrus notes due to their proximity to the trees. Unfortunately this didn't work out as well as he hoped, his tea plants met their end suddenly when the groundskeepers mistook them for weeds and took the weed wacker to them. Ouch!
I'm bummed that I missed out on the presentation from Elyse Petersen of Tealet on the Importance of Direct Trade. It was at the top of my list of things I wanted to do, but I was in the middle of a conversation with James Orrock from Single Origin Teas about the baby tea plants he had brought with him to give away during his presentation and tasting café session.
Amanda from My Thoughts are Like Butterflies won herself a baby tea plant (lucky girl!) I can't wait to hear how it fares.
I only caught the end of Michael Harney's presentation and hoped to meet up with him afterwards. Unfortunately the fire alarm went off as I was heading his way and he was doing a tasting café session by the time I was able to make it back to his booth. The good news is that thanks to the fire alarm I was able to find an empty seat in the Tasting Café. I promise that I didn't pull the fire alarm to get my seat!
During the Queen's Pantry tasting they poured three rooibos teas: Carrot Cake (hot), Lemon Soufflé Rooibos (Iced), and Highland Hearth (latte.) I later went back and bought an ounce of the Highland Hearth so I could follow their vanilla almond milk latte recipe. It was my favorite of the three.
My mom sat in on the tasting session from Denise Donnelly-Neill of Herbal Alchemy. Since she's allergic to everything under the sun she opted not to taste the samples, but was impressed by the depth of knowledge Denise has about herbalism.
I've spoken with Denise several times in the past few weeks. She sent me a sample of her Throat Soother tea (which is great for allergy season) as well as a few others that I'll be sharing with you in the coming months. We had a few moments to chat before I left the festival and her lunch suggestion was spot-on, thanks Denise!
Check back soon for part two, I'll be giving you a peak inside the vendor room for the Midwest Tea Festival.