After a failed attempt at making it to the 2017 MidWest tea festival (primarily due to a disabling car-accident), I decided to re-focus my attention on the tea industry. Since 2017, I learned so much and honestly, I couldn’t let another opportunity to go to Kansas City pass. In turn, I decided to drive up to the 2019 Midwest Tea Festival! Besides serving tea for an hour to around fifty people, along with talking on the main stage, here is an overview of what went down!
Before we dive in, this was the festival’s 5th year which fell on the weekend of the 7th and 8th of September 2019. This year, the festival had over 1,100 tea lovers in attendance with thirty-four vendors. On day one, I showed up about an hour early to get to the festival. It wasn’t planned that way — Kansas City traffic was much more forgiving than originally anticipated. After an hour and a long line of tea-fanatics, the doors opened and the festival was in full swing!
Right on arrival, everyone was given an honorary tea-cup for attendance (which would later be used as a pass for the festival throughout the weekend) and a bag full of flyers. To my right, the first booth would Jing Is Tea which sampled a variety of Taiwanese oolongs and black tea — along with gummies made from the tea its-self.
Along the way, Mana Bar happily greeted me as they recognized me from social media. Being recognized as ‘The Oolong Drunk’ is something that I certainly am not used to, along with seeing familiar teas from White2Tea displayed for sale outside of their web store.
Across the way was a familiar booth, which came in the form of Hugo Tea Company. What also caught my attention was that along the journey, they were one of the only booths serving tea in a gaiwan gong-fu style. With a custom-built combo of gong-fu table/kitchen island, they were presenting tea in a warm and welcoming manner.
Along the back of the convention held the largest booth in the entire building — which belonged to Ann Marie’s Teas. This tea company sampled six different teas and gave hefty-samples at that.
After wandering around, I decided to pace myself by attending the 1:00 pm lecture presented by James Orrock of Single Origin Teas. He went int depth of how he attends the University of Florida in the Department of Plant Pathology — specializing in introducing tea farming to Florida. After presenting his work and research, it was evident that James’s passion for beginning mass-wide US tea farming go from a pipe-dream to reality...
Upon entry, I made a sharp turn towards the entrance to find Ross of Shang Tea serving samples of tea — made gong-fu style. Ross’s passion for tea and knowledge ended up leading me to buy four-ounces of Tangerine-Scented black tea. I even fell in love with a wild white that he was brewing up.
I continued on to attend the International Tea Cuppers Club’s Cup Warming Social, where club founder Dan Robertson introduced the idea pf gong-fu to the festival in a presentation that included everybody in attendance to sample award-winning teas.
However, I ended up leaving the talk early to rush down to the tea-bar where I ended up talking about and serving, Shang Tea’s Tangerine-Scented black tea for around fifty people. During these four fifteen-minute sessions, I ended up being recognized and greeted by a member of reddit’s tea subreddit!
Continuing along, I bopped away to The Tea Smith’s booth, where I was swooped away from a floral tisane that left the impression of fruity-pebbles on the tongue. After being educated by the shop’s founder, it was easy for me to see why they fell in love with tea so many years ago.
As for that floral tisane; Impulse purchase? You bet.
However, I ended up leaving the festival-floor to go up to the Shang Tea Main Stage where I set up and talked about the marketing dangers of tea. With tea enthusiasts, and Hugo Tea Company in attendance, I presented my findings of how chamomile doesn't work, detox teas are a farce, and how deracinated teas aren’t 'really' decaffeinated. After thirty minutes of disproving the tea industries biggest marketing claims, I ended my presentation on the final note that dishonesty taints the world of tea as a whole…
Overall this was a very eventful, well, event! After meeting so many people who are as nuts about I am as tea, it felt like walking into an alternate universe that was in its own, a reality. Nicole Burris, who is the event’s organizer, did an incredible job of hosting this event, especially of this scale. When meeting Nicole, and driving back home, I was reminded that we all think tea with a certain level of passion. Despite all of our backgrounds, we all enjoyed being together for our love of tea.
Although Lana Del Rey didn't show up (and my search to have tea with her will have to continue), hopefully, you and I will get to drink tea together at next years festival…