Midwest Tea Festival 2016 - Kansas City, MO #MidwestTeaFest

Last Wednesday I packed the cooler, loaded up the car, strapped in the kid, and started making my way towards Kansas City, MO for the 2nd Annual Midwest Tea Festival. I had a ton of fun last year, so as soon as the date was set I started making plans to attend. As luck would have it the festival took place on Mother's Day weekend, so I made a quick stop in St. Louis to pick up my mom as I was passing through. 

There were a few notable changes to the festival this year, the biggest being the new venue. The Ararat Shrine Auditorium, located on the outskirts of KC, is a much more convenient location for non-KC natives who may not want to navigate the traffic of downtown. There was plenty of free parking available and despite the long line to get in the door things progressed quickly. The volunteers handling check-in kept things moving, so in less than 10 minutes I was able to jump right in and start sampling tea. 

Yōki Booth: Matcha Kit Kat bars - Midwest Tea Festival | Not Starving Yet

My very first stop was at the booth for Yōki where I sampled my first cup of tea and discovered numerous tea related treats including pocky, mochi, and matcha kit kats. I've been keeping my eye out for those kit kats, so I picked up a bag to take home. They managed to make it back to Wisconsin unmelted, so I'll be sharing the review of these tasty gems later this week.

Tealet Tasting Cafe: Experimental Teas - Midwest Tea Festival  | Not Starving Yet

With tea in hand I headed over to one of the first tasting cafe presentations of the day. Rie Tulali the General Manager at Tealet gave a brief talk about experimental teas. I was hoping to catch her later presentation about Direct Trade Tea as well, but time got away from me and I completely missed it.

Bimi Bakery - Midwest Tea Festival  | Not Starving Yet

After Tealet's session I headed back over to the vendors where I stumbled across more great tea snacks. Bimi Bakery was handing out samples of their lavender earl grey cake when I stopped by. As many of you know I love all things Earl Grey, so my mom treated me to a full size piece which I munched on during the ride home.

Bimi Bakery Treats - Midwest Tea Festival | Not Starving Yet

They also had a large assortment of matcha-based treats to choose from. The matcha chocolate with raisins, coconut, and nuts was tempting, but I wanted to save room for tea.

Japanese Tea Ceremony Presentation - Midwest Tea Festival | Not Starving Yet

I visited with a few more vendors before heading upstairs for the Japanese Tea Ceremony presentation given by Ayako Mizumura of Bimi Bakery. She gave a brief talk about respect, tradition, and how they relate to different aspects of tea ceremony before showing a video from the NHK, Japan's national public broadcasting organization. 

It was fascinating to learn the reasons behind some of the smallest details of the ceremony; every action is meant to add to the comfort of the guests. Something seemingly innocuous, such as where the tea pot is placed, can have a huge affect on how comfortable a guest is. In the winter the pot is placed closer to the guests to provide added warmth and it's placed closer to the host during the summer to keep guests cooler. It is small details such as these that make tea ceremony so fascinating, but at the same time it is this attention to detail that makes Japanese tea ceremony a very time-intensive tradition to learn. 

For those of you who are interested in learning more you can find the video that was shown during the lecture on YouTube.

Steepster Meet-up - Midwest Tea Festival | Not Starving Yet

After the presentation I headed downstairs again, this time to meet up with a group of Steepster members that I've been chatting with for years. We spent the hour sampling an aged oolong and chatting about various tea-related topics. Amanda from My Thoughts are Like Butterflies, Andrew the mad-genius behind Liquid Proust Teas, and an Oolong Owl were among those who attended the meet-up.

Afterwards I had meant to stop back by Liquid Proust's booth to pick up some of his Rummy Pu, one of the teas he was sampling during the festival, but it slipped my mind. It ended up being my favorite tea of the day, so I ordered some as soon as I got home along with his Watermelon Baozhong. I'll be sharing both of these teas during one of our upcoming Tuesday Tea reviews, so keep your eyes peeled.

Pi Ceramics - Midwest Tea Festival | Not Starving Yet

After more than three hours of sampling tea I needed a short break, so I decided to check out Pi Ceramics. Yvette brought along some truly breathtaking pieces this year, I really love these patterned tea cups and vases. My one regret from the festival is that I didn't take one home... maybe next year.

Tea-Rex T-shirts - Midwest Tea Festival | Not Starving Yet

Next stop was over to check out these lovely ladies who were hard at work making t-shirts. Who could pass up Tea-Rex on a shirt? Speaking of Tea-Rex, we saw him wandering around the festival throughout the day. I tried to get my dinosaur-loving little man to pose for a picture, but he was having none of that... go figure.

Anna Tea Shop Tea Plant Giveaway - Midwest Tea Festival | Not Starving Yet

Later on I discovered that Anna Tea Shop was giving away a tea plant every hour. I have a black thumb, so I didn't enter, but I'm pretty sure my mom slipped my name in the bowl while I wasn't looking. Fortunately the baby tea plants went home with someone else, if one had come home with me it would have been lucky to survive the trip home. 

I am death to anything green.

This shop was one of my favorite discoveries from last year due largely in part to their Lemon Souffle Rooibos tea (which we reviewed a few weeks ago.) It's easily one of my top five favorite teas, so I usually end my day with a huge cup before I head off to bed.

Bruce Richardson - Midwest Tea Festival | Not Starving Yet

I stopped in for a quick chat with Bruce Richardson, the tea master for the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum and co-owner of Elmwood Inn Fine Teas. He gave a lecture on the Five Teas That Launched a Revolution which was on my list of presentations I wanted to attend. Unfortunately it was going on the same time as the Steepster meet-up, so I missed out on hearing him speak.

Someone really needs to invent a time machine so I can attend all of the presentations during the festival and stop missing out on so many great lectures.

I spent another hour wandering around the various booths before I decided it was time to head back to St. Louis. After more than 12 hours in the car to arrive in KC and facing the fact that there were still 12 more hours of driving ahead of me I decided I was ready for a good meal and a nap. 

Want to see more photos from the festival? Look for us on Instagram or check out #MidwestTeaFest.

 

Disclosure


I am in no way affiliated with The Midwest Tea Festival, it's just a really cool event I'd like to see succeed. Upon my request I have been provided with a press pass for the event, admission for one guest, and samples from several of the vendors.

 

The Midwest Tea Festival, Part 2: Vendors

I wanted to give you one last peek at the Midwest Tea Festival, so today I'll be giving you the inside scoop on the vendor room. After my brief sojourn outside due to the fire alarm and a presentation given by Shang Tea, I was ready to go check out the vendor room again. There was a great turnout, so it was packed. I had to skip by the first few booths since it was impossible to get to them with my stroller (my little man loves tea, so of course I brought him along.) Don't worry, I came back later once things slowed down.

PiCeramics

One of my first stops was with Yvette Groover of PiCeramics. Her ceramics are gorgeous! While we didn't get to chat, she was busy with a long line of customers, I did talk to her husband about Yvette's plans to move into a larger home studio space later in the year. More room certainly means more ceramics, so I can't wait to see what Yvette comes up with next.

My next stop was Harney & Sons to try and catch up with Michael Harney. He is one difficult man to track down! On my final attempt he was heading off to his tasting café session, so I sampled a few teas and had to move on.

Bingley's Tea - Jane Austen Teas - Emma's Perfect Match

Bingley's Tea - Did you know that Jane Austen was a loose woman too? I didn't until I stopped by Bingley's booth and sampled their line of Jane Austen teas. When I was told that one of the samples, Emma's Perfect Match, was a blend of green tea, roses, strawberry and rhubarb I couldn't hold my tasting cup out fast enough. I have a thing for the combination of strawberry and rhubarb, especially in pie form. It's turns out that it's pretty scrumptious in tea form too.

Traveling Tea - Queen's Pantry - Chai Scottish Shortbread

Traveling Tea - a St. Louis based shop, caught my attention for being the only vendor selling food. I bought some of the Chai Scottish Shortbread made by Queen's Cuisine using Traveling Tea's Custom Blend Chai Spice Mix. I didn't start munching on them until I was on my way home, but the first bite made me wish I'd picked up a few of the other tasty looking treats they were selling.

The London Tea Room

London Tea Room - I've been meaning to stop in here since they were located down on Washington Ave. My last summer living in St. Louis had me working with a visiting artist from Chicago just down the street at Art Dimensions. I passed by every day when I got off the metro, but never could find the time to stop in.  I seriously regret that because these ladies know how to have fun! If you're in the St. Louis area make sure to stop by their new location on Morgan Ford Road by Tower Grove Park. When you do, might I suggest you try the Naughty Vicar, one of their best selling teas (which I was fortunate enough to sample during the festival.)

Queen's Pantry

I finally made it back around to the vendors I passed over, one of which was Queen's Pantry. I sat in on their tasting café session (you can read all about it here) and decided to pick up some of their Highland Hearth Rooibos blend. During the tasting café I was able learn how to make a tea latte with vanilla almond milk and boy was it tasty.

Shang Tea - Tangerine Blossom Red Tea

I also stopped by the Shang Tea booth for the third time so I could chat with Kyle Rutliff. He gave a presentation on Brick Aged White Tea & The Wonders of Unglazed Porcelain earlier in the day. Of course I used the trip as an excuse to sample the Tangerine Blossom Red Tea again, which ended up being my personal favorite from the festival. 

Lucky Baby Tea Company

Lucky Baby Tea - This was one of my very last stops during the festival. I took a few moments to speak with D. Shattuck about her brilliant business (it's a mobile tea cart serving up traditional Chinese Tea Gong Fu Style.) If you spend even the briefest moment with Dee you'll immediately see how passionate she is about tea. If you're in the KC metro area and are looking for something tea related to spice up your gathering, then talk to Dee. You'll have a great time while she serves up traditional Chinese tea (with a smile.)

Unfortunately I wasn't able to take photos of all of the booths, it was just a little too crowded for that, but I had a great time chatting with everyone there. I did miss out on talking with Elyse Petersen from Tealet and James Norwood Pratt. I'm still kicking myself about that. Otherwise, I'd say my first tea festival was a success. Hopefully I'll be able to make it back to Kansas City next year and do it all over again!

If you missed Part 1: Presentations and Tasting Cafe make sure to go back and check it out. Don't forget to visit us on instagram for more photos.

 

 

 

The Midwest Tea Festival, Part 1: Presentations and Tasting Cafe

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.

Here are some of the goodies I got to take home from the festival (not pictured is the nifty reusable shopping bag I was given to tote my samples around in.)

Here are some of the goodies I got to take home from the festival (not pictured is the nifty reusable shopping bag I was given to tote my samples around in.)

Presentations

Unglazed Porcelain Teapot - Shang Tea

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.

Single Origin Teas Presentation on Rolling Tea Leaves

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!

Hand Rolling Tea

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. 

Baby Tea Plants

Amanda from My Thoughts are Like Butterflies won herself a baby tea plant (lucky girl!) I can't wait to hear how it fares. 

Michael Harney contemplating a question from the audience. He was asked which tea was his favorite. His reply, That's like answering which son is my favorite, I have three sons so...

Michael Harney contemplating a question from the audience. He was asked which tea was his favorite. His reply, That's like answering which son is my favorite, I have three sons so...

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!
 

Tasting Café

Queen's Pantry in the Tasting Café

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.

Herbal Alchemy in the Tasting Café

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.