Last Sunday I had the pleasure of attending Coffee & Tea Festival NYC, which was held at the Metropolitan Pavilion. Since I will not be able to attend Tea Expo in Las Vegas this year, it was great to see a few familiar faces and learn a bit more about my favorite beverage at a venue a bit closer to Baltimore.
Representatives from the coffee, craft beer and liquor industries were there, but I think tea had the strongest showing. Tavalon Tea had a huge presence, with a large booth, lots of product for purchase as well as sampling, as well as their own DJ. As I came through the doors I was delighted to see Chris Cason (Tea Sommelier and fellow former Adagio Teas “Tea Expert”) giving a presentation on Tea Cocktails. He tells me that Tavalon’s teas are now available in Bloomingdale’s through the New York Metro area. I couldn’t be more thrilled for Tavalon’s success…his version of a Hot Toddy isn’t that bad either!
Upon turning the corner from Tavalon’s space in the venue, the entrance to the main exhibit hall was flanked by a Verizon Vios booth (with mug give-aways, of course), and a Starbucks display. The Starbucks booth was relatively empty, but there were people in barista outfits giving out samples of their Pike’s Place roast coffee.
My feeling on this? A couple of years ago I attended Extreme Beer Fest up in Boston MA. I was kind of surprised that Samuel Adams was in attendance, and more stunned that Jim Coch was manning their booth. Later I found out that he was on a panel discussing beer production. Sam Adams has had quite a bit of success in the industry – they were a game changer for craft beers much in the way Starbucks was for coffee. Handing out cups of coffee and calling it a day is bad show. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to hear a representative speak about growing practices or sourcing…perhaps a bit about roasting. When you have a group of people who are willing to pay to find out more about innovation in your industry, it’s better to do a bit more than hand them a cup of your house blend and call it a day.
At the other hand of this spectrum was the representation from Hancha Tea. Tea Master Yoon Hee Kim did a beautiful presentation on the Korean Powered Green Tea Ceremony – one that I was not aware has existed longer than the famed Japanese tea ceremony. She says that Korean tea drinkers are known to enjoy drinking just about anything that can be dried and steeped, which piqued my curiosity. I did a bit of exploration at the Hancha Tea booth later that afternoon and discovered their Hydrangea Tea. I look forward to their site to be up and running so I can purchase this variety – I have never tasted a tea so naturally sweet and uniquely flavored. I was completely stunned.
Great showings from SerendipiTEA (who are now opening a tearoom at their Manhasset, NY retail location), Tay Tea (hands-down most beautiful booth, decorated with huge cherry blossom branches. The tea was very good too!), Harney & Sons (thank you for the sample of the Taiping Houkui – quite lovely!), Guayaki Yerba Mate, and the Turkish Cultural Center (who did a great job in schooling me in Turkish Coffee).
An interesting product I encountered was Jada – a coffee & tea product that “Steeps in your mouth, not in your cup”. It’s essentially a tiny tea or coffee bag that you stick in your mouth and suck on. I tried the Mountain Mint.
That’s all I care to say about that.
It was also interesting to come across booths for NY Craft Beer Week (who brought two coffee beers) and Zen Green Tea Liquor. They both had samples, of which I took tiny sips in effort to not become Drinky Crow.
As much as I enjoyed the show, I debate whether it was worth traveling the distance from Baltimore to attend. I was mostly surprised by the amount of companies who chose to sponsor but who did not exhibit. It was disappointing to be lead to believe certain vendors would be there to later be told they were represented by a sample in a bag (if that). Is Coffee and Tea Festival a replacement for Tea Expo? I can say no. But if you live in New York City, enjoy coffee and tea and have some time to kill on a weekend sometime next year, I do recommend it.