My first one!
I'd wanted to go to the previous ones, a recently instituted institution, but time constraints... (oh yeah, I'm soooo busy) .
Well, I made a special point of going this year, and I was not disappointed. When I first walked into the Metropolitan Pavilion (never knew this place existed) I nearly keeled over with excitement. That would have been a coincidence, as I was just down the block from the first building I ever fainted in (you don't want to know). The Pavilion was full of tea and coffee companies displaying their products, answering questions, and offering samples. My first sample was at the Biscottea table. They make shortbread biscotti with tea ingredients - I think my favorite was the blueberry. Then I looked at some kind of healthy juice that sort of tasted like vitamin enriched grapey wine. After a few more moments of browsing, I headed for the area setup for the talks.
I managed to sit through four presentations, and they ran briskly enough to hold my interest. The first one, from Tafu tea, was technical but helpful. Mr. Tafu came from Japan to show us how to make proper cups of Sencha. Sadly the sound system was lacking, so I didn't get as much out of this one as I would have liked. Still, I was reminded of the importance of brewing green tea with water that hasn't reached boiling point yet. Too bad I can't pull that off at work. Well, the whole purpose of sitting down to a good cup of green tea is one of patience, and taking time out. I'll try to do this on the weekends then.
Next was a very lively presentation about making coffee and tea cocktails. At this point I'd managed to grab a seat in the front, which made it all the more enjoyable. What many know about me (or are beginning to learn) is that besides the placid pick-me-up of tea, I am also enamored of the exciting combinations available in cocktails - and the need for restraint. The kind of good thing about these drinks is that in restaurants and other venues they tend to be pricey, thus limiting me to one if any. But I love to watch these being made, especially when the bartender is creative. Kara Newman gave the presentation, along with Benoit Cornet of Sanctuary Tea - sound familiar? Though my first visit to Sanctuary T out of necessity excluded my ordering a cocktail, I was more than happy to sample Mr. Cornet's creations at the festival. I was not the only one there who had a good deal of fun at this point. I also managed to get a complimentary bottle of a coffee Bailey's type liqueur called "Cafe Boheme". It's a creamy delight.
Following this was a more toned-down talk by Ellen Easton, called "Afternoon Tea for Fun and Profit". I thought it was helpful because some people don't know what they're getting into when trying to open a tea room. She suggested getting experience both in the restaurant and retail industries. That's a good idea, because people who are into tea think they'd like nothing more than to open a tearoom - that it's so much fun. Well, there's a lot more into having such a business than a love of tea. The same goes for opening a bookstore I'd say. Well, I have no such aspirations, but there were good ideas for future tea parties. The history of afternoon tea is fascinating, but most of it I was already familiar with. I would like to try Lady Mendl's tea room now, though.
Next was a part about blending teas, from Tay Tea's Nini Ordoubadi. I loved this, mentally comparing her to an alchemist, though my passion runs deeper for tea than gold. Basically she showed the simple way one can test different mixtures of tea and dried fruits and herbs, to determine what truly blends well together. As someone who has sampled her product, I must say she knows what she's talking about. Tay Tea is based upstate, making me visualize a big kitchenlike studio full of white tasting cups and glass teapots with windows overlooking the lush mountainous countryside. ~Sigh~ but thankfully it's the best part of springtime in NY, where even in the crowded Chelsea streets one can enjoy the blooming trees and return of greenery.
I digress. There was a great deal of purchasing on my part - mostly gift items, as I really do have too much tea at home, but it was such a pleasure to see all the tea companies (okay, and coffee) gathered together. I must do this again next year. I'd love to go to all the Tea Expos nationwide but that's impossible. Still, the one that's a quick subway ride away is not to be missed.