Over the past few years of working directly with the U.S. tea industry, I have observed that tea companies do not really collaborate when it comes to their marketing to and education of tea lovers / consumers (for more, see another of my T Ching posts). Since our Tea Lovers Festival is a collective marketing and educational platform for tea-related businesses, we’ve decided to bring attention to this issue through our 2012 programming, in the hopes of a future marketing shift and even more support for our festival.
Our Tea Lovers Festival has been open to the public since our Indian-themed event in 2006. Over the years, we’ve taken pride in thinking “out of the (tea) box” and bringing unique educational and cultural programming to the tea-loving public, through both our festival and our tea bus tours. We also try to go beyond the mere rudimentary levels and have something for everyone, from the tea novice to the tea connoisseur and even the tea professional, appealing to tea lovers of all ages – an example being our popular Kids-Love-Tea-Too program.

With this year’s theme of COLLABORATIONS, we’ll be creating our usual unique and comprehensive programming by bringing together contrasting tea purveyors and educators, as well as collaborating with various tea-related establishments and cultural institutions in the Los Angeles area, for a city-wide celebration of the love of tea. Our theme, as well as our novelty-loving LA audiences and news media supporters, call for a slightly different festival format than what we’ve had in the past couple of years. Rather than compress the festival within a single weekend, we will have tea-related programs throughout the month of May.

Some of the highlights during our festival include our TeaVIP Opening Reception on May 4, which will feature The Art of Chai, where tea lovers learn how to make chai and pair it with delicious Indian-inspired deserts; a film screening of the documentary, All In This Tea, including Q&A with the filmmakers; as well as sounds from tea countries by world music aficionado Tom Schnabel of public-radio KCRW.

Our biggest festival draw – the Tea Lovers Marketplace on May 6 – will showcase tea-related products from select tea exhibitors and will run in conjunction with various workshops and tea studies, such as oolong vs. puerh, black teas from around the world, “what’s in my tea bag?”, pairing teas with chocolate, and discovering the world of herbal teas. But the core of our educational programming are two tea labs happening later in May – Battle Of The Bakers, where master chefs will create tea-infused desserts in a competition of skill and taste, as well as Battle Of The Blends, where teams of amateur tea lovers, led by master tea blenders, will compete in various tea-blending challenges.

Last, but not least, our TeaVIP Closing Ceremonies on May 27 to benefit Japan Tsunami Relief will feature Japanese tea ceremonies in the Edo Senke Sado style, traditional Japanese music, two film screenings (the feature Hannari: Geisha Modern and the short The Tea Master), ochazuke, sake tastings, calligraphy, and more.

We hope everyone is as excited about our 2012 festival format as we are. Through these new approaches, we don’t necessarily hope to make the Tea Lovers Festival bigger than in the past, just more diverse and far-reaching, and in line with our mission of “promoting the love of tea to the U.S. public through education and diverse cultural experiences.” This is for the tea lover in all of us, so let’s collaborate and continue to spread the tea love.

For a full schedule of programs, please go to the Tea Lovers Festival site or visit us on Facebook.