I just got back from Victoria Tea Festival last night - apparently, it's the largest tea festival in North America, and is a relatively new endeavor (this is the 3rd year). The event was held at the Crystal Garden (713 Douglas Street, just behind The Empress Hotel), an internesting building that used to be an indoors swimming pool. The exhibitors were quite varied, ranging from well established local tea companies, tea rooms, bakeries, tea accessories and china, and even a tea-leaf reader.
Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, is a pretty and small town on Vancouver Island with interesting heritage and strong British influence. Which makes tea there even more popular than in Vancouver - and English tea in particular. Afternoon tea are offered in several prestigious locations, the most known are perhaps White Heather, Butchart Gardens and The Empress Hotel. I have experienced the latter a couple of times (this weekend being the second) - a classy yet laid back settings (if you are comfortable with being served) and the tiered treats are to die for all-time classics (see image with recipe for their scone, printed on a tea towel below).
I was hoping to find interesting china or tea sets, but this was not a strong point at the exhibit. I did, however, find a couple of interesting vendors. One being a Japanese family-owned business that imports laqcuer ware and tea containers made of cherry wood. I was particularly smitten by this display of leather clutches, with elaborate designs that are white and raised obove the leather surface. The little red purse in the middle holds the stamps of the business owner's family name. There is a little locket-medallion attached that holds a tiny circular red inkpad. Apparently, this is a common accessory in each family in Japan that gets passed down the generations. What a nifty way to carry the family's signature!
Japanese Leather Accessories, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.
Artfarm make their own tea pots and carry an interesting selection of teas, including a tea I've never heard of before - Hojicha (roasted Japanese green tea, with a comforting, nutty-cereal aroma), jasmine pearls, pine smoked black tea (Lapsang Suchong), and organic White Peony, which I am sipping as I write this.
Which brings me to the point of my mission: I wanted to find really good and interesting white tea in this event. And while I'm not quite sure yet that I've found my favourite white tea yet - I sure did find a few interesting ones, from Silk Road. They can be viewed side by side on the image below, and as you may notice, one of them (the Snow Dragon) is actually individually spiraled silver needles. I was not impressed with it too much, but I might have brewed it with water that were not hot enough. I am yet to try the One Hundred Monkeys.
Two White Teas, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.
I may have not accomplished the white tea mission, but I sure did find one tea that I am very smitten with and am sure to be drinking a lot of: Oolong perfumed with magnolia flowers. This is an authentic perfumed tea, in which the tea leaves are layered with flowers. Tea readily absorbs the aroma of the flowers, and so this process is much like enfleurage with tea (instead of fat; and withouth the alcohol washing in the end, of course!). The petals are removed after they've exhaled their beauty onto the tea leaves, and so in a true perfumed tea the petals are for the most part absent. Their flavour possessed no value and if anything - they tend to add an undersiable bitterness to the bouquet. A so-called-perfumed-tea that has a lot of petals in it is often not a true perfumed tea, but a perfume that is aromatized with artificial and/or natural essences, and the dried flowers are added on as a supposed-proof-of-authenticity for those who are uneducated about perfumed teas.