I had only just started to attend Tea Festivals in 2019, going to Tea Fest PDX and later the Northwest Tea Festival. After that, there were no opportunities as events were canceled due to COVID-19. Thus, it was with much anticipation that I attended the 2022 Tea Fest PDX on Saturday, July 16. I dragged my Folgers-black-coffee-swilling father along for the experience.
As we got closer to Portland’s Lewis and Clark College where the event was being held this year, I commented on how old and lovely the area was. I was quite taken aback when my dad told me that his grandmother had lived in this neighborhood and he used to visit quite frequently when he was a teenager. He told me that she had even taken him to a nearby college just in case he was interested in attending, and remembered it being just up the road from his grandmother’s, on a road with “Hill” in the name. Sure enough, as we drew closer to the venue, we found that the college is on Palatine Hill Road. (As an interesting introspection, if he had attended that college he would never have met my mother…and I wouldn’t even exist.)
Left to right: Tasting booths in the distance, main vendor pavilion, registration
The event was at the scenic Lewis and Clark College Estate Gardens. Mostly outside, under temporary pavilions. Registration was at one end, near a larger area for the booths. On the other side were smaller areas for tastings and some classes. A short walk away in one direction was another covered class area, with the final classes being held in a nearby building. In the opposite direction from registration there were some food vendor booths.
Dewey Meyer of WuWo Group
“A tea festival is like finding your tribe and being able to play, experience, and learn all at the same time,” commented Dewey Meyer of the WuWo Group, who also described the event better than I could have:
“Last weekend was TeaFestPDX in Portland Oregon and after 2 long years away, everyone was ready to play and what a wonderful sight it was. The festival was held in a beautiful park-like setting, and as you wandered through the vendors you were presented with tea plants for sale, and displays showing the processing steps with real tea leaves in each stage to run your hands through and smell. As you progressed there was an antique teaware booth where you could get your fortune read in the tea leaves. Then around the corner the Japanese vendor was there to delight your senses with fresh bright green sencha. At every booth you could taste their wears[sic] and they were always happy to answer your questions. Outside the main tent was the ever popular “Used Teaware” booth, raising funds to keep the festival going, where you could find almost anything relating to serving tea, any style from Chinese, Japanese, English, and everything in-between. They had so much stuff that they are constantly unpacking, making you want to come back again and again. But lets[sic] not forget about education, and with over 25 classes ranging from the information packed “Tea 101” and “Indian Black Teas”, to relaxing and watching a blooming tea unfold, there was something for everyone. There was even “Tea with Jane Austen” where the presenters dressed up in late 1800’s costumes, along with places to just “be” and “feel” the energy of a 30 year old Puer as it’s[sic] brew moved through your body.
“Ah, the tea festival – there’s no place like it!”
Sponsors, Vendors, and Classes
This year’s festival had their Silver Sponsors:
- Aesthete Tea
And their Bronze Sponsors:
- Jasmine Pearl Tea Company
- Mizuba Tea
- Steven Smith Teamaker
- Jing Si Tea
- Mountain Rose Herbs
- Jugetsudo USA
- Red Robe Teahouse
- NW Wu-Wo Tea Association
- Foster Farm Botanicals
There were 25 additional vendors from as near as the Oregon coast and Salem areas and as far as Japan, China, Taiwan, and Nepal. A full schedule of 24 different classes including intros and how-to’s such as: How to Learn About Tea and Tea 101: The 6 Tea Types; community: Afternoon Tea & Poetry and A story of Chocolate and Tea; teaware: What Makes a Good Matcha Bowl? and History of Blue China; in-depth looks at particular teas: Structured Tasting of Taiwan Oolong and One Tea: 1990s Raw Pu’er; plus others on topics ranging from industry to travel. There were also numerous scheduled tastings.
Interestingly, one of the most unique and fascinating aspects of this festival is the booth selling gently-used teaware and treasures. It’s all donated, and the proceeds go back to funding the next year’s event. When I first attended, I didn’t even realize how unusual this was, as it’s such a classically Portland thing to do that I never questioned it. It actually was a bit of a surprise to me when I learned otherwise.
Nischal Banskota of Nepal Tea
Nishchal (Nish) Banskota, Founder of Nepal Tea Collective shared his thoughts:
“After two long years of wait[sic], our team was super excited to be on the tea festivals again. Though Tea Fest PDX is one of the newer tea festivals, it really caterers[sic] to the tea loving community and we did not hesitate for a second to travel all the way across the coast to meet our tea loving friends. Our expectation was that since it was right after Covid, the attendance would not be that great but we were pleasantly surprised to see the number of people that attended the show. Our guess was around 800-1000 people and we absolutely did not mind getting sold out of all our teas by the end of the festival (every vendor’s dream!). Moreover, the diversity of people is what really got me this time, from tea connoisseurs to people who just were starting into tea, from tea farmers to ceramicists, from daily tea drinkers to first time puerh tasters, we saw people from all across the range all united towards the love and passion for this beverage.”
“The speaking sessions were equally engaging and the variety of classes offered were amazing for anyone to find their niche subject matter of interest. All in all, we were very pleased that we attended and made a lot of new tea friends while rejuvenated the long existing relationships. We can confirm already that we will be attending for sure next year!”
I certainly had my own set of highlights such as practicing my rather rusty Japanese. Talking with the vendor at the Jing Si booth and being sure to purchase a tea from them because I support Taiwan. Telling the “Certified Tea Wizard” at the Fly Awake Tea House booth that he had the biggest gaiwan I had ever seen. Asking the vendor at North Fork 53 what species of rose is in their blends. The interesting class on how to make a tea Italian soda. Pressing numerous cups of tea upon my poor father. My purple lipstick and numerous comments and chuckles over my humorous tea-themed tanktop.
Materials for the tea Italian soda class: cups with Italian soda (one with non-dairy cream), club soda, five tea syrups
The Tea Fest PDX team pulled off a successful and memorable event, and I look forward to attending again in the future!
Images provided and copyright held by author