Saturday, March 1, 2008

Teavent - The World in a Teacup

Today I had the chance to go to The World in a Teacup event held at UC Berkeley's Phoebe Hearst Museum. The event consisted of two main parts, the first being a series of 4 presentations by the 4 speakers, followed by a question and answer panel. The second being a vendor tasting event and viewing of the actual museum exhibit itself.

The first half was the more interesting half of the event. The guest speakers were:
  • Eliot Jordan, director of tea for Peet's Coffee & Tea
  • Winnie Yu, tea buyer and owner of Teance, formerly known as Celadon Fine Teas
  • Gregory Levine, UC Berkeley associate professor of Japanese art, who will talk about Japanese Zen art and Japanese tea ceremonies
  • Erika Rappaport, UC Santa Barbara associate professor of modern Britain and of comparative consumer cultures, talking about her research on the history of tea advertising and tea consumption in Victorian England
The most interesting of the two were Eliot Jordan and Winnie Yu, primarily for their views as tea buyers. No offense to Gregory Levine and Erika Rappaport though who's views were primarily academic in nature and presentations were more historical than anything. Each speaker gave a brief 20 minute presentation on assorted aspects of tea in regards to their particular areas of expertise. For Winnie Yu it was mostly about a general overview of tea in China and the current market. Eliot Jordan spoke about the Indian market and production there. Erika Rappaport spoke about tea in the Victorian era and the switch from Chinese to Indian teas. Gregory Levine gave a brief overview of the meaning of tea in Japan and Chanoyu, needles to say there is a lot to cover there. The talks were quite entertaining, but to short to possess any really meaningful content. This was followed by a question and answer forum section, which in itself was quite interesting as well. Questions ranged from Organic labeling, to caffeine content, and everything else. The speakers did a rather good job of answering the questions in my opinion.

The second portion of the event was the vendor tastings and museum viewing. The museum exhibit was a bit disappointing. It really was a rather small display of tea and tea related items, but it did a good job of showcasing a lot of the equipment that is involved around the preparation of tea nowdays. It did a good job of showing tea items from around the world, from China, Japan, Russia, and Britain and a few other pieces as well. For it's size it was a quite nice display, I was simply hoping for something a bit more grand I guess. The vendor tasting was an interesting show of companies. Peet's Coffee And Tea obviously had their hand in this and was well represented. The art of tea, teance, the tea room, and a few other tea shops showed up as well. I was a bit surprised to not see the Imperial Tea Court represented considering one of their two shops is in Berkeley. There were representatives from the Berkeley potter's union as well showcasing some interesting teapots.

All in all it was an interesting afternoon of learning about tea from different perspectives in the industry and the academic side as well. Both Winnie Yu and Eliot Jordan represented the industry side very well and I would encourage anyone to listen to them speak if provided the chance. As far as the museum exhibit goes, don't go out of your way to look for it, but if you're there it's worth a quick glance. I'm sure though if you're reading this blog you probably know what all of the equipment there looks like anyway.


Matthew said...

just a quck note... imperial tea court has three shops, not two. the original is in china town, there is another in the ferry building and the third in berkeley.

Eric said...

Used to, they recently closed one of the locations and are now sadly down to two. The Berkeley and Ferry Building locations are the remaining two.