The 2nd annual Royal Botanical Gardens Tea Festival took place this past weekend. The gardens is located in Burlington, Ontario, close by Hamilton, Ontario. I actually lived in Hamilton for a few years when I went to school there, so it’s always nice to have an excuse to head back that way. An excuse that has to do with tea is even better! Last year the festival was a one-day event, but with the popularity it increased to all weekend long. I had the chance to attend and give a presentation on the Sunday. Here is how everything went.
I arrived at the Royal Botanical Gardens at the start of the festival on Sunday. I couldn’t recall being given a bag of some sort last year at check in, so I came prepared with my “This Is My Tea Bag” tote bag from Tea Thoughts Shop. However, this year you were actually presented with a tea festival customized plastic shopping bag in addition to the festival’s program, vendor map and glass tasting cup.
As I made my way through the check in, I had to find something first! I’m going to let you in on a huge tea festival pro tip. It’s a game changer.
Locate the bathroom before heading to all the vendors.
You’re going to be drinking A LOT of tea samples. Knowing where the bathroom is ahead of time can save time. So this is actually a serious piece of advice. Trust me. You’ll thank me later.
Royal Botanical Gardens Tea Festival Ceremonies
Tea Ceremonies were held two different times on both days. I was able to attend the Chinese tea ceremony which was beautifully demonstrated. Unfortunately, it was hard to hear at times, but they explained the ceremony and the teas that would be prepared – a black tea and a green tea. It was very nice that they actually also served some steeps to the audience to taste as well.
On the Saturday, they also had Sri Lankan Dancers at the McQuesten Theatre. The following day, Chinese Traditional Dancers were scheduled but I could not attend as it was during my presentation.
Royal Botanical Gardens Tea Festival Vendors
This year the festival moved to a different room in the gardens which allowed for more space for the 35 vendors. If you follow me on Instagram you may have already seen a bunch of the festival through my Stories. I’ll highlight a few that really stood out.
When first arriving to the vendor section, you’re greeted by a few different handmade soap booths. It certainly was a smart move to have all incredible fresh aroma from those vendors greet attendees. Some of the soap vendors also had tea infused soaps or scrubs, so they were fitting for the tea festival. One even had a coffee infused scrub, and it definitely smelled like coffee. But, as someone who doesn’t enjoy coffee, I would say it smelled too much like coffee for me.
There were many other booths near the entry, like Mohawk College’s Tea Sommelier program with the Tea Association of Canada, Blue Mountain Tea Company, Booch (one of my favourite Kombucha brands. They were also selling kombucha infused soaps!) and Tea Life Brand with fun tea sayings on shirts, notebooks, tumblers and more.
However, I just had to find one particular booth as soon as I could because I wanted to finally meet the lovely lady behind the company. The Sugared Teacup was probably the most colourful and fun looking booth there. The owner, Deb, just started her company (named after her tea blog) this year and she specializes in creating beautiful tea subscription boxes filled with tea products from Toronto based companies. I have been following Deb for so long and we always tried to meet up at the Toronto Tea Festival, but that never worked. So I was thrilled to finally get a chance to connect with her (and her super sweet mom!) at the Royal Botanical Gardens Tea Festival in person. It was awesome to see her in her element. My friends and I bought some tea infused lip balms she had at her booth, as well as her stocking stuffer packages with lovely Toronto tea blends.
My second stop was to my friend Reema’s booth. I had some of my favourite chai blends from Victoria Road Chai Co. (formerly known as The Chai Palace). The owner, Reema, does a fabulous job at creating unique chai blends in small batches. You can find floral, traditional, mild, or even extra spicy chai blends at her online shop.
Next, I was excited to hear that ZhenTea was joining this year’s festival. They’re always one of my favourite booths to stop by at the Toronto Tea Festival if they’re not jam packed with other eager tea drinkers! At the RBG tea festival we sampled a yellow tea they brought and talked more about jazz music than tea, but they go hand in hand!
One booth I walked by caught my eye because of their gorgeous tea inspired jewelry. It had tea pot necklaces, earrings and more fun tea related products. However, it was much more than just that. Travelling Tea Room is a company that will bring a tea party to you! This includes the teas, tea ware, food, etc. It can be for any event – from birthdays to bridal showers.
One of the last vendors I had to visit before I made my way upstairs for my presentation was The Art of Tea and Tasseomancy. Of course, I had to see my good tea friend Amy Taylor! She did a beautiful job at setting up her table with her “museum” of tea leaf reading cups from over the years. She also had tea leaf reading cards, books, traditional ware and was available to do mini on-site readings if requested. Amy gave three different talks that weekend, too. On the Saturday she chatted about Tasseomancy and tea being more than just a hot drink. Sunday she discussed herbs in tea and tisanes. If you’re ever in the Hamilton area, be sure to stop by her Mystic Tearoom.
Some other great vendors I had the opportunity to quickly check out were Genuine Tea, Sri Lanka Consulate, Capital Tea Limited, Algonquin Tea Company, and I’m still sad that I completely missed out on checking out Tan Long Tea’s booth. Gah! That will have to be my first stop for next time.
Royal Botanical Gardens Tea Festival Presentations
I was invited back as a speaker and this year my talk was “Behind the Scenes of Tea Blogging”. I went into the presentation assuming most people attending may not have a tea blog currently, but a few were interested in starting one of their own. Hopefully I inspired them to actually do so! I discussed what a tea blog is and what it can do for the tea industry. Most of my focus was on what tea bloggers do, the different writing styles, the various hats tea bloggers wear and the fact that blogging can create more opportunities. The talk concluded with a couple of quotes I gathered from other tea bloggers on what they thought the future held of tea blogging. See the image below. Overall, the presentation was well received and I look forward to checking out some new tea blogs soon 😉
It was perfect that after my presentation, Katie from Monarch Tea Co. was talking next about tea and chocolate pairing because this girl wanted to reward herself with some chocolate! I have followed Katie in the online world for some time now so I was really looking forward to finally being able to head to one of her workshops. I connected with her briefly downstairs prior to and couldn’t wait. She introduced her talk by briefly discussing some tea basics and then how to incorporate tea with chocolate. When it comes to pairing, she suggests pairing like tea with like chocolate or contrast flavours. Her talk also included an example pairing with her Madeleine Cookie tea and Walker’s Chocolate Milk Chocolate Meltaway. Each attendee got samples of both to prove just how delightful this like with like pairing was. I found that the coconut in the tea blend was more prominent when sips were shared with bites of the chocolate. The creamy centre of the chocolate also added to the rich Sri Lankan black tea. I’m actually working on a blog post (due out before the holidays) that is about this topic and also featuring some pairing examples with one of my favourite chocolate brands. Stay tuned!
As usual, when I leave a tea festival I am always wanting more. Why isn’t this a weekly event yet?! Haha. More reasons to start my countdown for the Toronto Tea Festival which I will be heading to next!
If you attended the Royal Botanical Gardens Tea Festival feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts on the weekend 🙂