Midwest Tea Fest 2015: Part 2 – The Haul!

Now on to Part 2 of my ‘review’ of the Midwest Tea Fest! Oh, what goodness lies ahead!

TeaHaul1What kind of tea person would I be if I did not take home a massive haul of tea back with me? I packed very light for the trip, but brought a giant suitcase to hold it all in. When it was all packed tightly away, I just made the cut off size for a checked bag. 49.5lbs of nothing but tea, teaware, and toothpaste!

I know how it looks, there is a lot more teaware than there is tea. I waited too long to snag anything, and a lot of the teas being sold were essentially all gone. But! I fell in love with more teaware than I think is healthy for just one person. It was pretty crowded around all of the booths the majority of the time, it was a madhouse! Just watching the folks at the Queen’s Pantry feverishly weigh and pack all the teas that were flying off the ‘shelves’ was almost nauseating. I overheard the people at Shang Tea how they only prepared for 300 people, and there was easily twice as much in attendance.

TeaHaul2The few teas you see are mostly samples, the Rishi and Harney were in my goodie bag, and I got samples of Pomegranate white and gunpowder mint from Single Origin. I did purchase Single Origin Tea’s Jun Chiyabari, the last one on their table. There is a small round tin of Bingley’s 10yrs Oven Roasted Aged oolong, and I did pick up some of Shang’s Aged White. (Not at the actual festival though, I took the short walk to Crowne Plaza to their brick and mortar store to pick some up, they were not selling them at the fest.)

TeaHaul3I ended up doing something I never do, and that is indulge in any whim I had along the way. I bought three pieces from Pi Ceramics, a sweet goblet cup, a cha hai (sharing pitcher) for gongfu, and a short and stout kuysu! They are great looking pieces and have a good home here with me. I bought another sharing pitcher from Bingley’s, as well as a small glass teapot. The two small white cups are from Shang Tea, as well as the white infused mug, and the Tea Seed Oil. (Fun Fact: Tea Seed Oil has a smoke point of 455F. You could healthily fry with it!)

The two books you see are the darlings of my collection from the fest. The first is Nichole’s own book, Tea Log: Chronicle your journey of Tea which a very useful tool I know I will be filling up very quickly. And the hardcover 30th edition of Tea Lover’s Treasury by James Norwood Pratt was signed by the legend himself. I was overjoyed by the welcoming attitude he and his wife Valerie had towards everyone they talked to.

Midwest Tea Fest 2015: Part 1 – The Event!

midwestfest1The Midwest Tea Fest a was a whirlwind of fun! It had everything I could have hoped for in my first tea-centric festival, great teas, fun gadgets, big names, and excitement! I can’t thank the coordinators Alex and Nichole enough Here is my review of the festivities, quick and easy.

Getting to the venue was a bit of a challenge. One of the country’s oldest races cut right across the World War 1 museum, so find the entrance was a bit of a laugh for me, I felt like I was climbing a mountain to get to the tall spire and the bashful sphinxes that guarded the museum. I never realized just how out of shape I was until I trudged up that hill! By the time I got to the entrance, it was already 10:15. The festival started at 10 and the line was already almost to the door. With some waiting and a slight hiccup, (I had preordered my tickets, and got the Dragonwell VIP package, and was not found on ‘the list.’ I managed to get in, but now that I think about it, there was all sorts of goodies I was supposed to receive with my ticket… ah well.) I was in! There was such a mass of people, that I had to wait aside for the right moment to enter, lest I be swept away by the throngs of tea-obsessed peoples.


I managed to get inside, and immediately started taking pictures. Queen’s Pantry was the first booth, and was massively swamped the whole time, with good reason too! They were sampling their Birthday cake black tea, which was excellent. Next door was the Shang Tea booth, which was sampling their white and tangerine blossom red. I couldn’t wait to sit in their presentation about aged white tea and unglazed porcelain.




The booth next to Shang was none other than James Norwood Pratt and his wife Valerie! I had to double back from the Harney and Sons booth to say hello to them both. JNP was a little surprised at my enthusiasm, a good majority of the people in attendance were just walking past him. He had a funny laugh and was quite polite. He handed me his business card with both hands and made me promise to keep in touch. NO problem, man! Next to his booth was Pi ceramics, which had great handmade pottery. I ended up getting a lot of her wares! But that is for another post.



Harney was stuck in the corner, and strangely unattended most of the time. Across that way was Tea Market, Bingley’s and Traveling Tea. I loved Bingley’s setup, they were actually my favorite booth! They had a little Yoda and R2D2 watching over the teas and a little glass teapot.


Phoenix Herbal was next, next to Yoki, Anna Marie’s Teas (Which actually had two booths, I got a teacup candle from their second one) and London Tea Room. Yoki was another one of those booths that was always crowded, I was only able to squeeze in for about a minute before being squished out again. But they did have some great looking tea sets and matcha candies.  The London tea room had some great teas to sample as well. I really enjoyed their setup as well.


A quick jaunt to the booth just outside of the tasting cafés was Single Origin Teas. I managed to snag a sample or two before heading to the presentations. In the tasting café area as well as the presentation rooms I was able to get a more in depth look at the companies and the teas they were most proud of. It was a breath of fresh air, with a lot less people to wade through. I was able to sit in at Tealet’s tasting of Nepalese teas, which is where I met fellow tea blogger, Amanda, ‘Soggy Enderman’ Wilson! Funny enough, we were right next to each other, and a mutal Instagram friend pointed out our near identical tasting cup pictures! Just when the tea was getting good, the fire alarm went off mid tasting session! We all filed out, and waited to go back in, but not before getting one last taste out of the white tea we were drinking. Luckily, nothing was actually on fire, so it was a short wait out in the humid Kansas City air. Whoever set off the alarm, we will never know. I went to the tasting session promptly after we were allowed to go back inside, hosting by the London tea room. At that time my phone had had enough of all the frenzied photographs I was taking and promptly died. My man and I stopped for an eat to bite as well as to charge my phone. While it was regaining it’s strength, we had a great lunch of period army food, ‘chipped beef’ and ‘trench stew.’ Appetizing, ain’t it?midwest17

I had some time to kill before the last presentation, so I wandered about, and ran into Elyse and Ree ‘Tulli’ from Tealet! Shooting the breeze with the fabulous and fascinating ladies at Tealet was so much fun, I would love to work with these strong and motivated people again soon!

Finally the time came, the main event was upon us! I had a friend secure us a good seat to listen to James Norwood Pratt’s thoughts on tea. He was a hit, making the easy crowd laugh and describing the intricacies of processing tea. It was a great end to a fabulous event. I had a great time, and I would not hesitate to go again next year. Next stop, Rocky Mountain Tea Fest!

Bonus points for making it through this post: I was on KC TV (channel 41) right before going to the fest! Watch me stumble over my words here.

Event Preview Party: Midwest Tea Fest!

This is not a Tea Review, however, it is a pump up session for a great tea-centric Festival!

midwestteafestI have been planning and plotting, arranging my schedule so that I can hit all the great vendors that will be at the Midwest Tea Fest this weekend! Saturday is the big day, and I am completely stoked. Former sister-turned-fabulous-editor-in-chief Liberteas has sampled three teas that are offered by some of the companies, like Herbal Alchemy Teahouse, Shang Tea, and the Queen’s Pantry. I can’t wait to try out the Jane Austen Teas offered by Bingley’s Tras, stock up on herbs offered by Herbal Alchemy, and anything aged from Shang Tea! There are also great and fun non-tea related vendors who I am definitely siked to check out, such as Yoki, a funky company that sells all sorts of cute Asian knickknacks, or Pi Ceramics, who may just have the one cup I have been searching for my whole life. I could really go on and on about the various vendors, but you should really check it out for yourself here.

The presentations and tastings lead by the vendors and sponsors should also be a hit. I am sure to attend the aged white tea session hosted by Sheng Tea, listen to Elyse from Tealet speak of the importance of face to farmer tea, and watch how tea leaves are processed thanks to Single Origin Teas. I know that at the end of the day, all eyes will turn to the Godfather of tea in America, James Norwood Pratt when he does his presentation.

Tune in next time when I show off the actual event and perhaps show you all my tea haul, which I can only imagine will be unreasonably large!

Cinnamon Wu-Long Tea from Shang Tea

Cinnamon_Wulong2Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  Shang Tea

Tea Description:

This release of our cinnamon wu-long is sure to be one of your favorite teas! Comprised of our finest 2010 white tea wu-long and carefully selected, organic cinnamon bark, this tea accentuates the natural cinnamon notes in the wu-long while maintaining the sweet, butternut and acorn squash flavors of the tea leaves.

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn more about the MidWest Tea Fest here.

Taster’s Review:

When I was approached by one of the organizers of the MidWest Tea Fest to review some teas from companies that would be at the festival, I was excited!  Not only was it an opportunity to try some more tea (I’m always eager to do that!) but it was also about the festival itself.  I am so happy when I see events like this happen for tea.  I feel like there is so much misinformation out there about tea, so many people with uninformed views about tea that maybe events like this one can help to better inform and educate people about the greatness of TEA!

So, when I was presented with a list of different teas that I could try and I saw this Cinnamon Wu-Long Tea from Shang Tea on the list, I believe it was the first one that I asked for!  Shang Tea is a company that I haven’t tried teas from in a while but it is a company that stands out in my memory for wonderful teas like their Bai Lin Kung Fu Red and Jasmine Snow Dragon – just to name a couple!  And if memory serves me correctly, I believe it was my experience with Shang Tea’s jasmine white teas that helped me to realize that while I do love a great jasmine green tea – a jasmine white tea is even better!

Even though this Cinnamon Wu-Long is a blend of Oolong and Cinnamon, I decided to go ahead and brew it the way I would a pure Oolong – in my gaiwan!  This is a darker Oolong, looking almost like an Oriental Beauty type of Oolong, even though the description suggests a gentle fermentation process.  The leaves were almost the same color as the cinnamon bark pieces, so much so that I found it a little difficult to distinguish between the two!

After a 15 second rinse, I steeped the first infusion for 45 seconds and the second infusion for 1 minute.  I combined both of these infusions into one cup and sat back to enjoy the splendid flavors!

Cinnamon_WulongWhat a lovely combination – the cinnamon is well-defined but not overpowering.  Very often, cinnamon can overwhelm a tea but Shang Tea was careful when blending this tea to make sure that wouldn’t happen.  I get a nice, gentle warmth and touch of spice from the cinnamon and I taste the sweet, fruit-like notes of the Oolong.  I like the way these two flavors taste together.

The Oolong tea has an almost ‘peach-like’ flavor and with the cinnamon, it tastes a little bit like a bowl of fresh peach slices that have been lightly sprinkled with ground cinnamon.  Nice!  By the time I got halfway through the cup, I started to pick up on some more savory notes:  notes of roasted squash and just a hint of pepper, just as the description suggests.  I could even taste the faintest note of a nutty flavor.  Imagine toasted walnuts mixed into that roasted squash with a hint of pepper.  Quite intriguing!

My second cup (infusions 3 and 4) was even nicer than the first.  It is here where the savory notes of squash are really strong.  It tastes a lot like when I roast an acorn squash with a little bit of butter and a sprinkling of salt and pepper and finish it with a dash of cinnamon.  I’m not getting as much of an obvious peach note, but the aftertaste is much more peach-like.

The tea is a compelling taste of sweet and savory with an emphasis on the savory.  This tea reminds me a lot of autumn, specifically of Thanksgiving!  This tastes like my squash side dish but maybe just a little nicer, because a) it’s tea; and b) I didn’t have to bake it for 45 minutes and scoop out the flesh of the squash from the hot outer shell.  That is my least favorite part of squash.  I love to eat the stuff but I don’t like scooping it out of the shell after it’s been baked.

midwestteafestA really lovely and unusual tea experience – this Cinnamon Wu-Long.  This is something I’d recommend to all Oolong enthusiasts – it’s different yet familiar … and it’s also quite YUM!

And if you’re in the Midwest, do make it a point to check out the Midwest Tea Fest!  Even if you aren’t in the Midwest, I still hope you can make it to the festival!  It’s a really great opportunity for you to check out and become familiar with some top-notch vendors and even purchase some tea and tea ware as well as become better informed about tea through their educational presentations and TASTE some incredible teas!  Sounds amazing to me!

Follow the MidWest Tea Fest on Facebook

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Honeysuckle White Tea from Phoenix Herb Company

Honeysuckle White Tea from Phoenix Herb Company
Honeysuckle White Tea from Phoenix Herb Company

Tea Information:

Leaf Type: White

Where to Buy: Phoenix Herb Company

Tea Description:

In China, there are over 100 species of wild Honeysuckle. highly prized for its medicinal vale, Honeysuckle is used in China and Europe to cool the body, alleviate headaches, sooth sore throats and contains anti-inflammatory properties. This tea is lovingly made with “White Peony King” White tea and combined with wild honeysuckle blossoms for an enchanting cup of tea.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Honeysuckle White Tea from Phoenix Herb Company is sweet perfection.  Sourced from Shang Tea, one of my favorite tea companies, Honeysuckle White is sweet, relaxing, lovely, scented, and buttery. There is almost this milky mouthfeel to it. Its an enchanting tea. The color is gorgeous! A very light vegetal flavor comes out in the after taste. It is also slightly nutty but each steep brings forth different notes. The vegetal flavor mixed with the buttery milky flavor remind me of buttered green beans. Yes I put butter on my green beans, don’t you? Honeysuckle White is pure ecstasy. That is if your idea of ecstasy is a creamy mouthfeel, sweet florals, buttery light vegetal flavors, and an undertone of nuttiness.

When I was a kid there were a lot of honeysuckle bushes around my neighborhood. You could pick the blooms of the honeysuckle bush and pull out the middle section, the stamen I believe, and there would be this shiny wet dew on the stem of the stamen. This was honeysuckle sap. It was sweet and delicious just like this tea but a natural sweetness of course, no where near as sweet or sappy as honey. This tea evokes those memories for me. A time very early in my youth that followed me into my own children’s youth as they too would learn the secret of the honeysuckle bush! I love a tea that can evoke a memory.

This tea is soothing, calming, almost meditative. The color is so beautiful – a bright sunny golden amber. The aroma makes the eyes open brightly with the lovely smell of honeysuckle blossoms, then the eyes shut with a soothing Ahhhhhh feeling of release. Since this tea is made with the White Peony King tea base you will pick up subtle nuisances of fruity undertones in later steepings.

This tea is a forgiving tea in the sense that you can play around with brew times if you wish to have your tea a bit stronger or a bit lighter. I steep mine for a good 3 to 4 minutes on the first steep and 5 or more on the following steeps, yet you can go as little as 1 to 2 minutes and still get a lovely flavor. Note the directions to bring water to a boil, then let rest one minute before immersing leaves to steep. You will find this tea can easily be steeped 3 to 4 times and still give a high quality enjoyable flavor palate for your palate!

This playful tea has the quality to be snobbish yet lets everyone enjoy its bounty, at 8.15 USD per ounce which I consider a fair price for such a lovely tea. Every time I enjoy this tea I will think of the years past, running around my neighborhood, picking honeysuckle and lapping up the sweet nectar of life and remembering times doing the same with my own little saplings!