The 11th annual coffee and tea festival arrived in Greenpoint Brooklyn this past weekend. Over 60 exhibitors where on hand to welcome the thousands that came to sample and taste their way through the Brooklyn Expo Center. Just like last year the VIP ticket allowed you to experience the festival two hours earlier and a gift bag. The focal point of this events is always the sampling. An array of teas, coffees, sweet and savory snacks were on full display, the VIP ticket made this a more pleasant experience. The other great thing was talking to the vendors and finding out about their products and stories. It's hard to speak with everyone and when the crowds get rolling it's nearly impossible. This year I made a commitment to seek out a few unique brands and really find out what makes their products special.
Capital Teas is a sponsor of the festival and always has quality teas and teaware. A standout this year was their roasted almond fruit tisane. It's best described as an oatmeal cookie in a cup. The apple, almond, and cinnamon flavors are naturally sweet and satisfying without the added sugar. Nothing goes to waste with this nutty tisane. The contents are completely edible and would be perfectly mixed into oatmeal or cookies. capital Teas also offers unique teas that can be added to beer to enhance flavor or wine mixers that they claim enrich the character of your wine.
Haute Chocolate Brooklyn wants to indulge your hedonistic side. The fine chocolate company makes six distinctively rich flavors like espresso and toasted almond. They debuted their newest addition this weekend, an earl grey chocolate that was floral with mild notes of citrus. The tea flavor stood up well to the rich 70% semi-sweet Peruvian chocolate. Another standout was the cinnamon chipotle. A spicy blend of savory chipotle peppers and sweet cassia cinnamon. The chocolate has no additives, gluten-free, vegan and sweetened with coconut and maple sugars.
The luxurious Silver Needle Tea Company offers pure single estate teas directly from the source. Their teas are clean, flavorful and rare. Exclusively selling green, white, oolong and black teas that come from China, Taiwan, and Japan. The company takes pride in the craftsmanship and environmentally friendly practices of its sourcing partners. Their exquisite packaging was a real standout and made it the perfect gift for any tea lover in your life. Silver Needle also offers a monthly membership program that includes a new tea each month delivered to your door. It's a great way to experience the quality and sophistication of these pure unblended teas.
Tea packaging has come a long way over the past decade. Many tea purveyors displayed beautifully designed canisters that highlight the uniqueness of each company. This was certainly true for Damn Fine Teas, a company founded by Charles Andrews and Erik Dunham. Their teas are fun and whimsical in both flavor and aesthetic. All the tins were created by Aesthetic Apparatus, a design company based out of Minneapolis. The tea is nothing short of spectacular. The mount grey brought out the best in a tea that can sometimes be too perfumy. Their version was well balanced with just a slight aroma of lavender and bergamot. It was floral but not overpowering. Damn Fine Teas was built on passion and love, something evident in my brief conversation with the founders.
Kombucha also made an appearance this year. My favorite was from a Brooklyn company called Pilot Kombucha. The handcrafted fermented tea is made in small batches with organic and local ingredients. The three flagship flavors include grapefruit mint, turmeric aloe, & blueberry lemongrass. I was also fortunate to try a brand new flavor, celery juniper. It was clean, crisp and very refreshing. The low sugar content gives this kombucha less carbonation but the flavors are pure and light. It's available at various stores throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan.
A cup of tea or coffee always seems to compliment something sweet especially a classic like a gingersnap. The people behind Finally Ginger have taken the simple spicy cookie to the next level. Their chewy preservative free version comes in flavors like oatmeal cranberry, orange and chocolate chunk. Each bite is filled with real ginger and each flavor is made with simple ingredients. These small batch cookies can be purchased online and even offer a three or six-month subscription service. I love the idea of receiving a dozen fresh baked artisanal cookies each month in a few flavor. These gems were some of the best cookies I've ever tasted.
After two hours of sipping, snacking and talking to all the vendors it's hard to not come away with new favorites and plenty of swag. As you can see in the photo above my VIP gift bag and the additional samples I picked up makes the festival worth the price of admission. Each year that I attend I'm rewarded with new finds and great stories. Many of the exhibitors are small businesses competing in a crowded marketplace. Events like the coffee and tea festival make it possible for these companies to get the word out and attract new life long customers.