Trade shows have a reputation for tedium, full of dry seminars for industry professionals, stationery samples, and towers of stale danishes.
But, imagine walking onto a trade show floor and almost immediately being handed a latte from one of your favourite local coffee chains. Then, spending the rest of the day sampling coffee, tea, chocolate, pastries and cocktails. All the while, competitions rage along to determine the best baristas and latte artists.
That’s what visiting the Canadian Coffee & Tea Show is like. There was an enormous array of coffee roasters and tea importers from around the world, with suppliers of everything a coffee shop or tea room could want.
A month later, I’m still sorting through and absorbing the materials I brought home from the show, but I have a few highlights to share with you, along with some thoughts about the show and what it means for the state of hot beverages in Vancouver.
I was a tea drinker for years before I ever touched a cup of coffee, so I was especially excited to see so many fine teas, highly qualified blenders and sommeliers, and the Tea Association of Canada at the show. I often drink coffee when I’m out, and as much as I enjoy it, there are many occasions when I wish I felt comfortable ordering tea, instead.
It can be difficult to find a good cup of tea in Vancouver, unless you’re at a tea room. There’s nothing worse than being served tea that’s improperly prepared, of poor quality, or both. Vancouver began solving its coffee problem in the 80s, so I’ve usually stuck with that at most of the places around town. (There’s one local coffee chain that particularly comes to mind – they have beautiful tea, chosen and blended by a talented team, but they pour almost half a cup of loose tea into a bag when they make a large cup. The tea is undrinkable and the leaves wasted.)
This is becoming less and less the case now, with the new generation of coffee shops focusing on the quality of everything they serve. They’re sourcing wonderful teas and preparing them precisely, making my decision of what to order very hard indeed.
This attention is reflected in the strong showing tea made at the show. Many of the conversations I had over the course of the two days left me feeling optimistic about the future of tea throughout Vancouver. Just as barista culture, artisan roasting, and the renaissance in brewing has elevated the quality of coffee in Vancouver, the influence of tea merchants and next gen coffee shops is elevating tea here, too.
So, you can expect to see more top shelf tea at coffee shops, hotels, and restaurants. But you should also expect more good quality tea at your grocery store, too. Though the emphasis at the show is on providing products to the industry, there were a number of retail brands in attendance at the show. I saw whole leaf tea, organic and fair trade brands, sommelier blends and more at the retail kiosks. The future of tea is bright in Canada.
For coffee, the future is already here, from discerning local roasting companies to innovative coffee shops. There was a dazzling display of machinery at the show, reminding me that coffee has a lot in common with cars – people love to look at race cars and long to bring an affordable version home. There were beautiful espresso machines, tap systems for everything from cocktails to sodas, and technological wonders.
But what’s really exciting now is that all the innovation we’ve seen in coffee brewing is ready to come home with you. Just look at this page on KitchenAid’s website, if you don’t believe me. Expect high quality coffee from local roasters to show up throughout the restaurant industry, while siphon and pour over machines appear on kitchen counters.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the show was being introduced to products that were trying to find a foothold in Canada. There was tea from Nepal, chocolate from Ecuador, coffee from Brazil, and BKON’s Craft Brewer – an amazing machine that can infuse flavour into alcohol in seconds or brew a perfect cup of tea at precisely the right time and temperature. These were just a few of the exhibitors who were working to establish themselves here.
Edmonton’s Blue Hour Tea and their “sticky teas.” Premixing chai with Alberta honey is something different and delicious.
I’m hoarding the last of the samples I got from Lumbini Tea. Beautiful, whole leaf, flavourful tea is something to be savoured.
I was impressed by Trumps Fine Food‘s gluten-free collection. Producing tasty gluten-free goods in volume is difficult to pull off.
6 Mountains‘ Pu Erh tea was beautifully presented and served amidst the chaos of the trade show floor. It truly is the king of tea.
I learned a lot at the show and I’m looking forward to following up on leads for future stories, which I hope to share with you in the new year.
In the meantime, I’m getting ready to visit the Vancouver Tea Festival. They’re at the Croatian Cultural Centre this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and I’ll tell you all about it next Tuesday. If you’re in Vancouver, though, you can find out for yourself. You can buy tickets to the Festival on their website, along with tickets to their educational sessions.
I received a media pass to attend the trade show and competitions at The Canadian Coffee & Tea Show, nevertheless, all opinions are my own.