On February 25th, 2012, Roy Fong, Owner and Founder of Imperial Tea Court, will present the first annual tea festival in the Bay Area. With the area’s rich cultural mix and history, it seems surprising that an event of this type has not already surfaced, and the historical Ferry Building will serve as an ideal venue for the event, with its focus on epicurean experiences.
The 1st Annual San Francisco Tea Festival promises to be a wonderful event, with reputable and interesting events, including a Dragon Dance at the opening ceremony, a Gongfu Cha demonstration, and a screening of Scott Chamberlin Hoyt’s film, “The Meaning of Tea.” Exhibitors span a wide range, from individual tea people and authors to internationally recognized tea companies.
For a little insight into the philosophy behind the festival, here is an excerpt from Roy Fong’s speech at the 2011 Xiamen International Tea Fair’s International Tea Industry Forum, which is available for download on the SF Tea Festival website:
Before I could change the way others thought about tea, I had to fall in love with tea myself. I had this good fortune when I was in my twenties, on a vacation in Hong Kong. At that time I wasn’t in the food and beverage industry, I was driving a tow truck. That is to say, I didn’t enter the tea business from a position of privilege or influence. I wasn’t an insider – and maybe that’s one reason that I was able to see new opportunities in what most people assumed was a mature market. One day during my vacation I happened to be wandering around Sheung Wan when I smelled an incredible aroma that instantly took me back to my childhood – the odor of fresh oolong tea roasting over charcoal. I went into the shop and started chatting with the owner. When I finally left the teashop that day I didn’t immediately realize that my life was changed forever, but I certainly knew that I wanted to learn everything possible about tea.
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As someone that has done a fair amount of content on tea, I have a lot of mixed thoughts on the way information is passed. With tea reviews or discussing a specific tea I have struggled with the question: how to talk about an individual tea or tea in general in an interesting or useful way.. Whether you like or dislike TeaDB episodes largely depends on whether you enjoy watching two particular people drink and binter. This is fine enough and it is certainly fun for Denny & I to create, but I’ll also agree with the sentiment that it’s not necessarily the most substantive way to review a tea in depth. There’s some signal but there’s also a lot of noise. Writing about a specific tea also isn’t easy and I think is actually very difficult to execute in a way that is actually consistently interesting or useful for people. Most people just want to know if you liked or didn’t like a specific tea. Making something that piques interest beyond that is a challenge and even if you don’t like them a place like Mei Leaf has succeeded in creating content that really does engage their viewers. You also have to consider that the majority of people have not had the tea or are even unfamiliar with the basic taste profile (i.e. Denny & I describing a traditionally stored pu’erh, when the audience has never had one).. Here are some phrases I dislike and hear frequently enough that I find them unhelpful and sometimes even counter-productive.
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