This post shares 5 tips for attending tea festivals–how to prepare, what to bring, and an important thing to plan to do during festivals.
What Is a Tea Festival?
Tea festivals are events open to the public (often requiring attendees to purchase tickets) that feature vendors and artisans (sometimes even producers) who sell tea, teaware, accessories, and related merchandise. They also usually sell tea sweets or other food items.
Additionally, the festivals usually feature tea professionals who offer workshops on topics that range from Tea 101 to specific types of tea, tea and meditation, cooking, history and culture, and so on. They are a great opportunity for tea lovers to try new tea, see teaware, learn, and connect with others.
The USA features a number of tea festivals–including, but not limited to: Chicago Tea Festival, Midwest Tea Festival, Northwest Tea Festival, Pennsylvania Tea Festival, TeaFestPDX, etc. Other countries have tea festivals, too.
(Photo: Me at Tea Fest PDX in July 2022. This festival was held mostly outside in Portland, Oregon. I’ve written before about some of my delightful experiences with tea in Portland in this post, “Tea in the Canyon.”)
Overview of the 5 Tips
After returning from Canada and attending the wonderful Toronto Tea Festival, I reflected on tips for attending tea festivals. Here, I’ve gathered a few–including some from tea friends!
Bring Empty Bags for Tea
Bring empty, refillable bags for tea. Nicole Wilson of Tea for Me Please shared this excellent tip with me before the festival and I passed it along to a friend. Bringing empty food storage bags can allow you split tea purchases with friends and distribute the tea. (You could also just gift a friend some tea from your purchase, too!)
This way, you can buy more different kinds of tea, more affordably than you might be able to otherwise. This is a really helpful tip for attending tea festivals where you will know other people.
Bring a Backpack or a Tote Bag
Bring a backpack or tote bag. Although tea festivals in the three different places I have attended them each provided a tote bag to attendees, if your purchases get heavy, it can be really useful to divide them among two totes or slide some into a backpack. Not absolutely necessary, but something to think about.
(Photo: Sierra Joseph-Quon smiling behind The Tea Practitioner booth at the Toronto Tea Festival in 2024. In the foreground, you can see the orange tote bags the festival gave ticket holders before running out on Sunday and switching to pink.)
Bring a Water Bottle and a Few Napkins
Bring a water bottle and a few napkins (or a clean cloth). If you are like me, you can’t drink endless caffeine and you need to stay hydrated. It’s not always easy to find water fountains these days. I’m not even sure I have ever seen a tea festival selling water bottles either. And, water often has to be lugged from afar at tea festivals, so I would never want to ask a vendor for some of their water. So, bringing a water bottle to the tea festival is a good idea.
I also recommend bringing a few napkins or a cloth to occasionally wipe out the tasting cup that tea festivals usually provide. Cleaning your cup from time to time will allow you to more clearly taste the teas. (You could also use a splash of water from your water bottle to help the process along.) This tip for attending tea festivals will help you better evaluate the tea samples available.
Eat Before Attending Tea Festivals
Eat before you attend. I credit Taniya Gupta of YogaTeaPoetry for this tip! It’s tempting to think about the snacks you might be able to buy there. But, how is your stomach going to feel if you don’t eat a proper meal while spending the day becoming highly caffeinated? Eating before you attend–and planning for a mid-day meal as well if you will be at the festival all day–will keep the experience more enjoyable.
Plan to Take Breaks
Plan to take breaks! Tea festivals–particularly those held indoors–can get crowded, noisy, and intense in the vendor areas. (Check out the crush of humanity in the background of this selfie from the Toronto Tea Festival in 2024. It doesn’t even completely convey how crowded it was!) Stepping off the vendor floor to attend tea talks or workshops definitely helps.
Still, there’s no replacing stepping out to get a little air, take a walk, and/or find a quieter place to sit. I find these kinds of breaks help me enjoy the frenetic festival energy more than if I just tried to stay there the entire day. I highly recommend stepping out and then returning.
(Photo of tea friends with crowd in the background of the Toronto Tea Festival 2024: Marco from Steap’d, me, Kelly from @ros_strange, and Taniya from YogaTeaPoetry.)
Do you have a tip for attending tea festivals that I didn’t share? We’d love to hear them. Let us know in the comments!