The Ottawa Tea Festival 2012

TEA Festival 2012_5

Over the weekend Ottawa played host to its second annual Tea Festival. With the main event being held at the Ottawa Convention Centre (in a hall right next to doors to the Rideau Centre) the venue was witness to a very consistent flow of people throughout the day which kept the place full. Then on Sunday the festivities continued with a series of workshops that were held at a variety of locations around the downtown area.

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Of course the best part of any tea festival is all the great varieties of tea available! It was hard not to be drinking – if you didn’t have your cup filled by one of the courteous volunteers canvasing the floor with hot pots ready to pour, then you were certain to get a cup at one of the many exhibits. Every table had some teas to taste, and if they didn’t then you were likely to find a delicious snack, the perfect compliment.

TEA Festival 2012_9_65

As one wandered the hall it wasn’t hard to spot many local companies. DAVIDsTEA is one who certainly stood out. They were not the only ones getting attention though, some other notable locals on location were Shanti Tea, the Algonquin Tea Company , Koko Chocolates and naturally Kimicha Tea.

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Another great aspect of the festival not to be over-looked was the strong multi-cultural influences present. Not just at the tables or in the wide varieties of teas either. At the far end of the hall people could take a seat or stop to pause and enjoy some great live performances which included some amazing dance group performances, some enjoyable musicians and some well informed guest speakers. The pictured dance troop is Ottawa’s Darpan dance group of Lovina Srivastava who specializes in all styles of Indian dancing.

It is also important to add that there was an ongoing fundraiser directly associated with the event to support AfEC an organization which helps provide basic amenities to children and adults in India.

TEA Festival 2012_9_116Overall the event was a smash hit and bywardofmouth.ca would like to give a big shout out and thank you to Kimi from Kimicha Tea for putting on this great event and for having us in attendance. We certainly cannot wait until the next year when we do not doubt that there will be a third annual Ottawa Tea Festival which will continue to grow bigger and better with each passing year.

More photos after the jump.

writing and photography by C.Cullen.

edited by J.Beamish.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “The Ottawa Tea Festival 2012

  1. Neil Simpson

    I’m sure that there were many Christmas gifts picked up, tea is such a great gift to give…now you have a reason to visit the person you gave it to!

    I just want to tell everyone that I found another great gift for anyone looking for something to put in the stocking or a small gift for someone interested in cars, the car show is offering tickets for this years show at $3 off, easy peasy! http://autoshowottawa.com/buy-tickets/#.UNSlmHfUl8I

    Merry Christmas to all!

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  3. Jaime

    Algonquin Tea Company: Lucid Dreaming or Hallucinations? Another example of the Settler Society benefitting from the Indigenous
    November 24, 2013 at 3:21am
    Algonquin Tea Company: Lucid Dreaming or Hallucinations? Another example of the Settler Society benefitting from the Indigenous Imagery without any real Indigenous connections~
    By Jaime Koebel
    November 24, 2013

    The first time I bought a box of “Awakening Tea” in 2002 from Loeb’s I was pleasantly surprised to see a an Aboriginal Tea brand on mainstream store shelves. I was proud of the Indigenous design – clearly a woodlands style painting that reminded me of Norval Morrisseau. I remembered when I bought that tea because after the first cup of it I got a headache. Without thinking that the two were related, I had another cup a few days later and the same thing happened again. A third time revealed my disappointment at not being able to drink the tea because it was a guaranteed headache. Rather than give up, I tried another tea from the Algonquin Tea Company called “Lucid Dream Tea,” only to end in the same head-achie result. Boo. I really wanted to like that tea. Especially given that it was an Aboriginal Tea brand.

    Fast forward to yesterday – November 22, 2013; I head to the Ottawa Tea Festival at the Convention Centre with my amazing daughter, Miss Hunter M. The festival was located in a small quaint room – oh wait, who am I kidding, it was so crowded I couldn’t wait to leave and if it wasn’t for my daughter who kept up some interesting conversations about chocolate and her enthusiasm for trying new teas, I would have left almost immediately. Not only was the convention room tiny but I almost left mostly because of the first table I saw set up at the festival which was none other than the Algonquin Tea Company.

    I must say that I was not critical right off the bat – I was curious actually. Having their table there gave me an opportunity to see the people behind the company. After some small chat, I inquired with one worker about whether or not the owners were Aboriginal – “ah, no, they aren’t.”Hmm, so that was a little disappointing and burst the bubble of an idea I had of them. And really, that’s not even a big deal…however, now, I was interested in their harvesting practises, their relationship with the Anishinaabe and where their recipes came from.

    Question #1 – The blond woman at the table said that they get their plants from the land – the land of the Algonquin people. Okay, fair enough. Was there permission from the Algonquin people…I never asked that question, but here’s the kicker….

    Questions #2 – In terms of the relationship with the Anishinaabe people, the lady with black/grey hair said that they are currently trying to have an Aboriginal person work with them as long as “everything works-out.” The blond lady said that they don’t currently have any Aboriginal employees but they DID have a blessing from Grandfather William Commanda before he passed on at the age of 98. Now, I know that earlier I said that this was the kicker…this no ‘real’ Aboriginal connection but actually, this is….

    Question #3 – The blond lady says to me that they get their blends from a white man named Steve who goes in to the bush quite often and works with a spirit who has antlers and that spirit communicates to Steve and teaches him all about the teas.

    Maybe – I mean, I suppose it’s possible that Steve’s antler wearing spirit communicates herbal tea blends with the Moniyaw man but the presentation of such “sacred moments” in the middle of a busy tea convention was disengenuous and cheapened Soniyaw Steve’s experiences (granted they even happened in the first place). Maybe there was another kind of herbie helper going on there while Soniyaw Steve was seeing visions, or hallucinations or whatever. Anyway, I suppose if one really wanted to know, they could always pay $315 for one of their “Lucid Dreaming” workshops that they offer in the summer time. Although, if you add on an Indigenous Skills workshop plus one other – you can get 10% off so – whatever deal suits your fancy I imagine.

    During my chat with the blond lady, whom I figured out from the website afterward that her name is Kim, she said that the tea company has lot of Aboriginal friends and support out there for her product. I looked on her Facebook and it turns out she’s right. Heck, even icon Kent Monkman is a fan of the tea company with 15 others on my friend’s list. So, I guess this MUST legitimize the company then…right?

    Kim said to me that her company has not made any claims to be an Aboriginal company. I looked on the website and she’s right again – they do not claim to be an Aboriginal company. They don’t even claim to be an Aboriginal inspired company (http://www.algonquintea.ca). So, I guess I found it strange that the story she told me about the blessing of William Commanda wasn’t on her website which would, at the very least, support her Indigenous themed imagery I would think…if so, then why isn’t that up there? Because I suspect, that there would be tons of backlash if she did make that claim publicly given this company’s cultural ethics.

    What about Steve’s visions? How come they’re not up there as part of the tea stories either? Wouldn’t all the Algonquin Tea Company’s Aboriginal friends be pleased to know that the tea comes from an antler inspired devine source? No you say? Well, why not? It’s because it sounds like a warm heap of new-age bullshit to me. It sounds like Mr & Miss Soniyaw are out to benefit from the imagery of the Indigenous Peoples of Canada for their product and services without having any real genuine relationship with Indigenous peoples at all.

    Oh wait, there was one relationship that Kim mentioned – an ex-boyfriend who was Aboriginal made the designs on the packaging. So naturally that makes it all better.

    There’s also the story of the porcupine that they adopted and how the word Algonquin means “bark-eater” and although there isn’t an explanation for what language she is talking about, there’s a strange assumption to be made there that it’s an Algonquin word because they are so ambiguous and combined with all that Indigenous imagery, one can only assume it’s an Indigenous reference. Only, I checked and it’s not an Algonquin word. The word for porcupine is something like, “kag” and “wisinin” means to eat. The word for bark is shinwakokog. I may not have gotten the exact spelling right but I know from my own language that Anishinaabemowin and Neyhiwewin are not that far a part from each other and besides, those on-line Algonquin translators are pretty darn good. In French, bark eater is “mangeur d’écorce” so, the point is, there’s no clear reference for where they refer to porcupine as meaning “bark-eater” and I feel like many people would assume it’s an Indigenous reference.

    Anyway – why do I feel so riled up about this? It’s because after all this time knowing about the Algonquin Tea Company and thinking that they were a legitimate Aboriginal based company, I felt deceived that in fact, they are not. Not only that but I feel like this company benefits from the imagery of Indigenous peoples (Woodlands style art) and appearance of their services as Indigenous “themed” workshops and skills without giving back to the community or involving them in any genuine way.

    During my conversation with Kim, she made it clear that it wasn’t her responsibility if others “assumed” that they were not Aboriginal because they have never made any explicit claims as such. Basically, it’s the consumer’s fault for thinking this way despite the packaging, despite the language that is used to sell the product and despite the ambiguity on their website. Kim took no responsibility for misleading consumers into thinking they were an Aboriginal company. So much for “ethical-wildcrafting” Aboriginal Tea Company – it’s more like unethical-mindcrafting.

    To add to my point, here’s a little reference from an article on the portrayal of Aboriginal identity in tourism in Australia which is relevant to the selling of products in this instance (reference at the end):

    “In multi-cultural nations, the social capacity building benefits of cultural diversity might be celebrated, or indigenous culture may be promoted to convey the core character of the destination and portray the desired destination identity. In the latter, national identity may be contested, creating confusion for advertising audiences”

    There’s a little part of me that hopes this company bites the dust just like “Inukt” did only a few weeks ago because of our community’s hard work in lobbying to have those product out of the stores and off shelves. There’s a little part of me that wants to feel sorry for this company and in weak moments I’m tempted to shake it off but then I read that the Tea Company gives workshops on “Authentic Self” and I’m brought back to reality because, they know better – and instead, they choose to turn a blind eye in the face of commerce.

    In the end, the fact that she called me “honey” three times prompted the writing of this article and saved her from being spit on. Patronizing at it’s best.

    Needless to say, I will not be legitimizing this company’s branding~

    Reference: http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2221&context=commpapers

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