Photos by Anna Mariani
The 9th edition of the Los Angeles Tea Festival took place last weekend at The Reef event space in the LA Mart building located in downtown Los Angeles. With over 40 exhibitors and a comprehensive program of classes, workshops, and performances over the course of the whole weekend, the festival engaged and connected tea enthusiasts ranging from purists to casual tea drinkers with tea companies from California and beyond.
Miguel Gonzales has attended the Los Angeles Tea Festival every year since 2016. He was positively impressed by the venue and by the good mix of exhibitors, more and more of whom are catering to the serious tea drinker.
“I consider myself a traditional tea drinker, I don’t even know what label I’d give to myself, but I like drinking tea straight,” he says. “I’m very fond of pu-erh, oolong, and depending on the season, if it’s spring, I’ll go with freshly harvested teas from China or Japan. In winter, pu-erh and oolong are usually my go-to but my favorite category is aged oolong. It’s not really something that you can find here, you have to look for it online.”
Gonzales enjoys connecting in person with tea companies, especially those he purchases from online, and getting to know the people who sourced his favorite teas.
“I usually come here to buy tea, meet the vendors, interact with them,” he says. “When you buy tea online, you don’t really see that person sourcing those teas and I also like that here at the festival you can actually taste some teas before you buy.”
New ways to experience tea
Alongside ready-to-drink tea-based beverages, kombucha, cannabis and CBD-infused tea, the ubiquitous matcha, and tea geared towards purists, including post-fermented teas, oolong, single-origin Darjeeling, Nepali, and Colombian teas, the festival showcased new ways to experience tea.
“I think as a trend, people are looking at ways to expand the uses and place for tea in our culture,” says Cynthia Glanzberg, owner of OneTea, a local company offering sustainable and ethically sourced loose-leaf tea. “From pairings, to tea cocktails, to different ways to experience the pure leaf itself, we’re seeing a shift to creating our own culture around tea here in the United States that’s been missing for many years.”.
Sharing a booth with Dandelion Chocolate, the bean-to-bar artisan chocolate maker from San Francisco, OneTea offered three tea tastings, each of which was paired with a different chocolate bar.
“We do these pairings at the Dandelion Chocolate pop-up at ROW DTLA and they’ve been such a hit, so we thought it might be a fun experience for the tea lovers at the festival,” says Glanzberg. “The festival attendees seemed to really enjoy what we were doing! There was a great energy surrounding our booth at all times, people were asking really smart questions and entering deep conversations amongst each other that we were happy to have sparked.”
Tea pairings and other creative ways of experiencing tea were further explored during the festival workshops and classes, which included but were not limited to a craft tea cocktail workshop, a tea and cheese pairing class, a tea and yoga class, and a tea and meditation class.