SF International Tea Festival brews up good drinks

Nov. 16, 2017, 10:00 a.m.

When I decided to attend the San Francisco International Tea Festival, I didn’t quite know what to expect. Held at the Ferry Building, two whole tiers of tickets for an event that was already sold out on one day — what was I getting into?

You could say I’m a tea enthusiast, but I’m by no means a tea fanatic or a tea connoisseur at heart. Yet, I went because — yes, I do love tea.

SF International Tea Festival brews up good drinks
A vendor brews tea right on the spot for customers awaiting samples. (OLIVIA POPP/The Stanford Daily)

What I found was an extraordinarily pleasant surprise. Each patron was given a small gift bag with a porcelain cup (which I’m enjoying right now with some tea!) and a hefty collection of sample teas.

Unfortunately, the festival is stuck in quite a small area. Vendors are cramped inside with entirely too many patrons — which is great for the vendors, but not so much for simple mobility. This seems like a popular festival and admission isn’t cheap, so why not move to a bigger location?

SF International Tea Festival brews up good drinks
The Yerba Buena Tea Company shows off its impressive collection of teas. (OLIVIA POPP/The Stanford Daily)

The most rewarding part of the fest was purely browsing. Each vendor was more than happy — dare I say ecstatic — to provide samples of teas ranging from pre-bagged teas to kombucha and from Chinese pu’er teas to matcha made right in front of your eyes. I gleefully tried a wonderful collection of teas and made sure to go to every vendor before making a carefully informed decision.

Many of the teas are more high-end or considered small-batch and made in a special way. This isn’t to say the entire festival was cost-prohibitive, but just that you need to be careful if you’re on a budget.

SF International Tea Festival brews up good drinks
A tea vendor share his matcha-making equipment. (OLIVIA POPP/The Stanford Daily)

I ended up getting some black tea that I knew I’d drink every day, and I even got a couple of holiday-themed teas to bring home for my family after I sampled them. I didn’t get anything that one might call super fancy, but it’s worth a shot to go next year to see what new stuff the festival offers.

If you’re a tea-lover, the SF Tea Festival is more than perfect for you. But if you’re on the fence about tea, it’s probably not worth your time. However, there’s surely plenty of folks in the Bay who would be extremely pleased to spend both days at the SF Tea Festival — and honestly, I probably would be too.

Contact Olivia Popp at oliviapopp ‘at’ stanford.edu

Olivia Popp was a managing editor of Arts & Life for volumes 251 through 254 and the editor-at-large for The Stanford Daily's board of directors for volumes 254 and 255. She hails from Michigan and enjoys science fiction TV shows, independent film festivals, and the Bay Area theater scene.

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