“So what is a tea festival?” This is a question I get asked all the time, but I guess what we do must be quite unique, as I have to answer a lot of questions. Not that I mind it at all – after all, a large part of what we’re about is education, so answering questions comes with the territory. But I wonder whether people also ask, “What is a film festival?” or “What is a music festival?” or even “What is a garlic festival?” I guess we need more tea festivals out there, so people become more familiar with them. But that’s another topic altogether.
To me, the answer is quite simple – it’s a “festival” all about “tea.” This is how I quickly answer curious folks before I go into a more descriptive – and rather passionate – rant about our annual tea festival in Los Angeles. The event has grown quite a bit since I started it as a mere tea party on Valentine’s Day for my nieces over a decade ago. Since then we have also outgrown the format of being just a cultural festival during tea time and are currently one of the few existing, exclusively tea-focused, consumer events in the United States, with comprehensive educational and marketing components.
I credit the Fowler Museum with propelling us into this new format, after we created the unique Tea Bus Tours for their Steeped in History: The Art of Tea exhibition in 2009. We had sensed for a while that consumers wanted a thorough, tea-focused event. Plus, producing an alternative celebration on Valentine’s Day had become more difficult during the economic downfall – tea houses and other tea-related businesses no longer had the extra staff to send to our festival on such a lucrative holiday at their own locations.
So we took what we did for the Fowler Museum and expanded it. We also added a marketplace of unique tea exhibitors, moved the festival to the springtime, and relocated to a unique cultural space – Royal/T – in Culver City, which just like us believes in combining the marketing of tea with arts and culture. Hence, our present festival format.
The response from the public has been tremendous and attendance has increased from the few hundred in 2006-2009 to around 1,000 in 2010. This year, we’re expecting even more to attend the festival since we’ve doubled our educational and cultural programming. Now, if only the tea industry would stop wavering and jump on this bandwagon by allocating a small amount of their annual marketing budgets for education and direct marketing to their tea consumer, rather than primarily to the trade. Then, our festival could be even grander and easier for us to produce. But that’s yet another topic.
This year, our festival is back at Royal/T on May 13-15. It celebrates all tea lovers as a theme – in fact, we’ve even included that in our name. And we’ve expanded the event to include a TeaVIP Opening Night, plus two full days of educational and culltural programming and our popular tea marketplace. In addition, we’re creating a Tea Lovers Pop-Up Shop, which will be open for two full weeks prior to the festival and, of course, during Mother’s Day weekend, so tea lovers have the opportunity to introduce their families to some unique tea gifts.
We hope to see some of you T Ching readers at the festival in May. In the meantime, spread the word and spread the tea love in the most festive ways you possibly can.
For more information on Kulov’s Annual Tea Lovers Festival, go to: KulovTeaFest.com or TeaLoversFestival.com