After nine years of residing in Rochester, I finally crossed over to the other side of Ontario Lake, to get to the Canadian city of Toronto - thanks to its annual tea festival. For the efforts - which included an early rise and a hangover from the polar vortex of the century - we were richly rewarded. Our day trip was filled with many cups of warm wonderful teas, encounters with equally warm tea enthusiasts, and topped off by a documentary on Darjeeling tea!
Most of the tea vendors were from Canada and many represented a diversity of tea specializations and traditions- Indian chai, Japanese green teas, puerh, Taiwanese oolongs, etc. Some of the sampling that were memorable included some Hawaiian teas from Be Teas, "wet chai" from Chaiwallah where the chai came in already mixed with honey, puerhs from Jalam Teas Club and Denong Tea were really enjoyable.
One of the main persons responsible for me being at the festival was Happy Earth Tea guru, Josiah. He had just recently heard about the event and had immediately taken a day off from his day job and wanted me to come along. On his turn, Josiah too actually had been prodded to come to the festival after an exchange he had on Redditt with one of the owners of Zhen Tea.
This is where we had a memorable wuyi oolong to sample. (Wuyi is a region in Fujian province and their oolongs tend to be very heavily oxidized and roasted). It was also nice to chat with the owners Zhen and Phil, a handsome pair. We heard about them having working contacts with descendants of people who invented some of the classic black teas of China including Lapsang Souchong. Tall tale? Hopefully not.
A young lady, and someone who looked like her mother, were at the booth of Misty Mountain Tea. These gentle ladies presented a sample that perhaps delighted me most. Not only because the tea was really lovely, but also of my personal connection to the place. The tea they were presenting was from Meghalaya - a state in the remote north East corner of India. Me and my wife had made a wonderful trip to this - often described as Scotland of the East because of its lakes and hills - in 2005. Tea plantations were a new thing in Meghalaya then. Looks like it has come a long way in a relatively short time.
We finished off the day with the screening of a documentary on Darjeeling tea made by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. It essentially followed the trip Kevin Gascoyne of Camellia Sinensis, Montreal based tea company, makes annually to Darjeeling to source his teas. Before the screening, Kevin who was present at the screening, warned me that I would be made homesick by the film. Well, he could have also given me a box of tissues.
The film managed to capture the singular beauty of Darjeeling tea, often described, as Kevin notes, the champagne of teas. It was good to see the interest of the tea enthusiasts in Darjeeling, reflected in the many questions after the screening. I had a separate conversation with Kevin about Darjeeling which I will cover in one of my future blog posts. That is Kevin and I in the picture above.
There could not have been a more perfect end to the day. Returning home with a bag full tea of that I bought at the festival and heart full of Darjeeling - our other home in the hills. And also by the sweet border guard who waved us in with her cup of echinacea tea.
By the way, here is the picture of the Toronto Public Library where the tea festival took place - an impressive place. As for actually sight seeing the city that will have to wait until another visit, and better weather.