It is hard to describe how much I learned at this year's 2013 World Tea Expo, and all the amazing people I met - some for the first time and other's reconnecting, and meeting customer's or people I've only known through the internet. Very nice, indeed, and very much worth the trip!
The main reason I went this year was to join in discussions about the first U.S. League of Independent Tea Growers. The meeting, open to the broader Tea Expo audience, was full of enthusiasm and interest. It was encouraging to see the support we have in the community of tea and to meet with growers like myself, who came to share our hopes and experiences. Tea is a patient teacher, and a teacher of patience. Just like growing tea, growing a new organization will take time and patience. But I have no doubt that we will all benefit from being more connected. The free flow of information about tea growing and processing is critical to help the local tea industry to expand and flourish. And the more people know about growing local, U.S. tea, the more appreciation there will be for fine tea and those who make tea around the world.
I also attended a new Expo workshop on processing tea. Although I've been making tea for years, I still have plenty to learn. We made five different kinds of tea (white, green, yellow, oolong and black) over the course of two sessions (3 hours each). In addition to learning new skills, like yellow tea, I was amazed at the quality of the teaching, the tea leaves (flown in from Hawaii), and the ease at which the instructors managed the logistics. We ended up with a tasting of the tea we had made, and it was all delicious. To me, the green and white teas had an especially "sweet" aroma, which made me wonder if it could be due to the Hawaii climate, the plants, or maybe the cold storage for the days and hours before processing began. So many variables to consider. Of course, I'll need to experiment with this myself!
Last, I learned about "Baking tea", which is a completely new idea to me and a process which clearly added value to older, stored oolongs. Definitely something I need to research, as it was clear that this process of heating and reheating the tea conveyed profound (and delicious) new qualities to the tea.
Christine Parks, owner and operator of Camellia Forest Tea Gardens, enjoys teaching about tea and the creative process of taking tea from garden to cup.