Library and Archives Canada to host annual tea festival

Library and Archives Canada will be steeped in the cultural traditions of tea Dec. 6-7.

Aficionados of the aromatic beverage will gather there for fourth annual Ottawa Tea Festival. 

Organizers are expecting about 3,000 people to attend this year. Festival founder Kimiko Uriu says the festival attracted a crowd of 600 during its first year in 2010.  

“I totally didn’t expect that amount of people because I organized it completely by myself,” she says. 

In its second year the festival doubled its numbers and attendance was up to 2,000 last year. This year, Uriu decided to change the venue from the Ottawa Convention Centre to the Library and Archives building on Wellington Street.  The multiple rooms within the archives venue make it possible for many workshops and performances to happen simultaneously, Uriu explains. 

The festival will run two days this year for the first time, as well. 

Uriu, is also the founder of Kimicha, an Ottawa-based tea company that curates and sells artisan teas from China, Japan Korea and India. She credits the festival’s popularity to word-of-mouth promotion, as well as the growing popularity of specialty teas. 

Alyssa, Matheson, sales associate with Maple Valley Tea World, a tea shop in the ByWard Market, agrees that the market for the ancient drink is increasing, “partially I think because of the popularity of tea lattes and all the mixed drinks that started being served at the bigger chains,” she says. 

Matheson says Maple Valley Tea World will bring a variety of specialty teas to the festival, including “Christmas Baked Apple” and “Canadian Maple Black.” 

“It’s a Ceylon Black tea, and then it’s blended with the maple syrup,” she explains. 

The cultural infusion of the festival draws people in, Uriu says.  

Performers from many cultural backgrounds, including Indonesian musicians and dancers, and a Japanese Taiko drummer, will be at the festival this year. 

The festival will also feature a free children’s tea party this year, Uriu says. It will be from 9 a.m. until 10:45 a.m. on Dec. 6. 

Uriu says she was inspired to promote caffeine-free teas as healthy alternative drink for young children by her own two-year-old son’s love for tea. 

“He’s a purist…it’s obviously very diluted, but no sugar,” she says. 

“He even drinks matcha,” she says, referring to a finely powdered green tea.  

The children’s tea is also part of a charity initiative, says Uriu. Donations to Candlelighters, a childhood cancer support program, will be collected at the event.  

Uriu says a noteworthy Kimicha tea that will be available is the Jin Ju Mei which won best black tea in the 2011 North American Tea Championships. The Jin Jun Mei, says Uriu, has such a natural sweetness that drinkers need not use sugar. 

Festival-goers will also be able to try new, sometimes tea-inspired foods.  

Carolina Foresti, founder of Carolina’s Box of Goodness, will be making Spicy Masala Chai Brownies for the festival. Every year she makes a different tea-flavored brownie by using tea powder as a spice, she says. 

Foresti says she chose Masala this year because it goes well with chocolate.

Foresti, who’s been involved in the festival since it began, says the event is a good place for small business owners to showcase their products and heritage. This diversity of cultural backgrounds, as well as flavours, is just her cup of tea, she says.  

“(Kimiko) invites people from all different countries,” she says. “Everybody who makes teas, they are represented there so it’s not just about selling the tea…it’s about the history of tea.”