I had the opportunity to attend a tea festival in early May. Perfect weather, and copious cups of tea consumed!
The Midwest Tea Festival was recently held in Overland Park, Kansas. The weather was beautiful. I was able to drive through some of the most serene landscapes I believe I have ever seen. The Flint Hills of Kansas happen to be one of the largest preserved prairies in the United States. The area is also known as the Bluestem Pastures, or the Blue Stem Hills. The Flint Hills have an abundance of flint that can be seen on the surface of the soil. The area includes the eastern part of Kansas, down through the northern Oklahoma area. Travelers, explorers and the like can explore the prairie via highway viewing turn outs, or ambling along boardwalks through sections of the prairie. There is also small town exploration, and even music concerts at night in ecologically minded locations in the area. Included in the Flint Hills are several state parks that have self guided educational displays and seasonal events.
The day I drove through the hills the sky was blue with white clouds, and the prairie was a bright emerald green. I felt like I was driving through a movie set; it was picture perfect. For once the gale force winds in this Midwest and southern region had died down, and what was left was a gentle breeze stirring in the air. The stillness and quite is what captivated me. The cows were so far in the distance, roaming the prairie, that even their mooing was not audible. Every bend of the road presented a new view of the majestic prairie and the serenity the hills displayed. After a tranquil drive through the Flint Hills, the city of Overland Park quickly appeared in front of me.
The festival was first established around five years ago. But, like the rest of the world, it was shut down for several years. This year, the festival reopened, and was held in Overland Park, Kansas. Overland Park is west of Kansas City by roughly a thirty minute drive, and has all the amenities that a big city has to offer. I grabbed dinner and settled into the hotel for the evening. I was going to be at the festival for one day only, and wanted to make the most of every opportunity, so an early evening was crucial for me. I was excited about the prospect of a day full of meeting people, drinking tea, and learning new information regarding tea.
I was at the convention center with the first wave of tea sojourners. I received a handy and useful tote bag and a tea tasting cup. I walked into the exhibition hall to find tea was already steeped, and friendly faces welcoming people into the main room. It was a smaller festival than in years past, with roughly sixteen vendors, and a variety of display tables set up in the exhibition hall. I strolled around the festival show hall sipping tea from various vendors as I looked at all the tea wares displayed.
The festival included an opening ceremony with a raffle. I attended various guided tea tastings from tea growers and tea merchants alike. At one of the guided tea tastings, conducted by a tea grower, I became aware of the “100 year agricultural system”. Elementary, how one farms, tends to, or cultivates a land can have long lasting consequences, positive or negative, for a hundred plus years. In addition, I attended a few tea talks that were held in an adjoining room. The history of tea in the United States was briefly discussed. Another topic included the history of, and usage of various common herbs and tea botanical blends. I was surprised to learn that almost every culture had an arsenal of herbs for their community; including the Vikings of old, who lived in the Northern most growing regions. For those who needed a brain break from all the learning or a tea drinking break, short films related to tea were playing in another room that people could enjoy. The last exhibit hall room was designed for children who might attend the festival. It was a place for them to play tea Bingo, conduct a tea scavenger hunt, or experience a tea tasting of their own.
The festival continued for two days and I, unfortunately, could only attend the first day. The second day of the festival evidently included thematic tea tastings with food pairings, additional guided tea tastings, more tea classes and of course, sipping tea at vendor booths. The day I attended flew by at warp speed. Next year, I will have to schedule extra time to attend, in order to experience both days of the festival.
An enjoyable day spent sipping tea,
About The Author
Leslie Sundberg is a World Tea Academy Certified Tea Specialist, a World Tea Academy Apprentice Tea Sommelier, a Specialty Tea Institute Level IV trained Tea Specialist, and a Tea and Business Etiquette Specialist. On any given day, Leslie can be found teaching, speaking or sharing in the joys of a cup of tea. No matter what Leslie is doing or where she is, one thing remains constant: 4:00 in the afternoon is tea time!