When Lisa Stekelenburg became the manager of Camosun College’s Child Care Services, she had no idea her duties would include putting together the biggest public tea expo on the continent. Yet here she is, organizing the Victoria Tea Festival, happening this weekend at the Crystal Garden.
“We were just looking for a signature fundraising event that would be something that would have some significance in dollar raising,” explains Stekelenburg. “For me, I’m a go big or go home kind of girl, so selling chocolates is a little bit on the small side.”
Now in its fifth year, the Victoria Tea Festival features over 40 exhibitors and attracts people from all over North America, with 2,400 folks flocking to take in all things tea last year — a large chunk of whom were, surprisingly, in the under-30 set.
“The traditional understanding of Victoria and tea is the traditional side of tea, but the festival really celebrates both the traditions and the trends of tea,” Stekelenburg says of the young demographic. “Certainly, we have the red hat ladies that attend, to the very hip and health-conscious young person who’s interested in pursuing tea for whatever their particular reasons are.”
In addition to the plethora of tea vendors and exhibitors, you can also catch presentations on things like the origin of chai, cooking with tea, how to make kid-friendly iced teas and even a traditional Japanese tea ceremony by Urasenke Nagomi Tea Circle. “They’ll be in full costume and it will be done in the authentic style,” says Stekelenburg.
If you like your tea a bit, well, stronger, Spinnaker’s will have cask-conditioned ales infused with Silk Road Teas on hand to sample.
“They’re going to be bringing three different tea ales to the festival,” says Stekelenburg. “They’ve actually already bottled one in time for New Year, it’s called Happy New Beer. It’s a witbier (“white beer”) with Silk Road’s Chamomile Bliss in it.”
The Victoria Tea Festival runs from 12-5pm Saturday and 11am-4pm Sunday at the Crystal Garden, 713 Douglas. Tickets are $20 advance or $25 at the door. Visit victoriateafestival.com for ticket outlets and more details on the festival.