Tea and tea lovers from far and wide

The eighth annual Toronto Tea Festival held at the Reference Library over the weekend drew tea fans from much further afield than the immediate neighbourhoods.

In fact, it’s a worldwide event, noted Desmond Li, one of the festival organizers.

“We get a lot of visitors from all around North America, some from overseas, like from the UK and the EU and they love that there are so many varieties of tea here,” he said. “We have representatives from different embassies like Kenya and China — it’s just an amalgamation of different cultures.”

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The second-floor Appel Salon was full with hundreds of visitors studying, testing and buying the wares of more than 50 vendors from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Feb. 1 and 2. They also attended 19 presentations on tea.

This year the festival held a “VIP event” on Friday evening before the show with Kevin Gascoyne, a famous tea sommelier from Montreal, hosting a rare tea tasting in an intimate environment.

Why are people so fond of tea? Because it brings them together, Li said.

Tea originated in Asia, China and India and then passed over the Europe and in all those areas people developed ceremonies around tea for people to appreciate time together, according to Li.

But the festival is still a great place for local tea drinkers to come. “There are so many new kinds of tea being experimented with here,” Li said. “That’s what we’re all about right now.”

Tea being poured at Tea Festival
HIGH TEA: A cup is prepared at the Toronto Tea Festival.