Aniwest Tea Workshop: Impressions

The Aniwest is over and I’m back from my vacation. So I’d love to present you with some impressions on how the Aniwest Tea Workshop went and what I learned.

First off, I have to say it was amazing. We got the workshop completely filled and the people participating were great and interested in the topic. Although, we also had some issues during the preparation and our time was a bit short.

What was the plan?

For the workshop, we wanted to start with a powerpoint presentation about tea and gongfu style brewing. After that, we made ten groups of two people each. Each group got one gaiwan, one gong dao bei, and one tea. Everyone got their own cup and we’d also place 10 thermos bottles so that each group had everything they needed. For each tea, we wanted to have one sheet of general information about it, a steep counter with the recommended steeping times and a section for notes from the visitors. Then we’d cycle through the teas after each infusion, each group moving one place to their left until everyone got to try every tea. For all of this, we planned 1,5h.

The Preparation

We set everything up in a room that was right next to the workshop room. This room was closed off completely for visitors until shortly before the workshop started. Where it was used for meeting the star guests and signing autographs. Since we needed to fill 10 thermos bottles we smartly brought three water heaters… Turns out it wasn’t so smart after all  we blew a fuse. I’m not sure how much the kettles drew. I just know mine uses 1000 watt, one of the others was probably a bit lower, and the third one a bit higher. All in all, with the lights on, it was too much. Luckily, we did that in another room that didn’t necessarily need electricity. Especially because it took the organizers a while to find the fuses. Sorry again for that! We continued filling the thermoses with only one electric kettle and we placed it outside of the room. There luckily was a socket right in the hallway.

Then we also prepared the gaiwans with the tea and set them aside on a table so that we just had to carry them over after the current workshop occupying the room ended. The time between the workshops should have been 15 minutes, it, however, was basically zero, since the workshop before took a bit longer and the people already lined up outside. So they had to wait a little bit until we carried everything into the room and put up the laptop for the powerpoint presentation. However, they were understanding and it wasn’t much of a problem.

The Presentation

In the beginning, I talked a little bit about the different kinds of teas, their processing and about gongfu brewing. I also talked about how I got into tea and the tools that are used to drink tea. Still, I tried to keep the presentation relatively short so that we had more time for the actual tea session.

The Tea Session

After the presentation, we handed everybody the utensils, gave a short instruction on how to use a gaiwan and let them try it. It worked surprisingly well and no gaiwan broke or got damaged. During the tea session, we walked through the rows and talked with the people and got asked many questions. Generally discussing the teas with each other was also encouraged and I made sure to ask the people how they liked the individual teas. The feedback I got was very interesting, but more to that later. I tried to keep my eyes out to see when the people were generally ready to proceed to the next tea. Sadly we ran out of time and only got to 8 rotations, so each group missed out on 2 teas. We also had some Japanese tea and matcha with us that we wanted to share, but we just didn’t get to it because of the lack of time. However, I did get to show off some Chinese teapots during the session and explain a bit about the clays used.

The Feedback

The immediate feedback was very positive. Also walking through the convention and talking to the organizers, we got even more positive feedback. The people seemed to really have enjoyed the workshop. 

The feedback on the teas was also really interesting. The people left a lot of notes on the sheets. In addition, during talking with them it was interesting to see what they liked and what they didn’t like. It showed how different tastes can be. While most people liked the Aged Bai Mu Dan, someone even rating it 11/10, there was also someone who only gave it 4/10. The purple beauty green tea someone voted 10/10, while someone also only gave it 4/10. Most people, however, had problems with the shou and sheng puerh. Especially with the sheng, this might have been my fault.

Problems

Normally when drinking tea you go from one infusion to another. This lets you change up the brewing parameters if a tea gets too light or too bitter. With our approach, however, this wasn’t as easy since you only got to try each tea once. So you didn’t know how the tea was the steep before, except for the notes the group previously wrote down. This led to the sheng becoming a bit too bitter and astringent because it was still really compressed at the beginning and only opened up at later infusions. Also, everyone only got to try one steep of each tea. So, one reason why some notes are different might just be because some were taken right at the beginning and some at the end, the tea might have changed quite a bit during those 8 steeps. However, I still think it’s an okay way to introduce that many people to tea.

Besides, 20 people is a lot and harder to handle then I initially expected, especially given the limited time. Originally we wanted to take a couple of pictures during the workshop. Yet, we just didn’t get to it due to there always being other things that needed our attention. I also wanted to talk way more about teas and gongfu brewing, but this also turned out harder than I expected during the actual tea drinking. Because talking in the front during the tea session would distract from the tea and slow everything down.

Learnings

  • One water heater is enough!
  • Breaking up the puerh more would be a good idea.
  • Requesting more preparation time in between the workshops.
  • Extend the workshop to 2h.

Doing this again, I would talk about everything regarding general tea knowledge before the tea session starts. After that, I’d focus on the current tea each group is drinking or special questions they still might be having.

I might even be tempted to ask for an own room and change it up so that it’s basically a tea bar and people can come and go as they like and request one of the different teas. And then maybe give them a gaiwan with the tea and hot water. However, this would likely mean that they only get to try one or two teas but not the whole range that I’d actually like to share. I’m still thinking about some way to improve it!

Sponsors and Helpers

Again a big thank you to Yunnan Sourcing for providing the tea and to Moses Tee Shop for lending us the teaware. You are great! Also a thank you to the whole Aniwest team for making this possible and helping us out where we needed it! I know there was a lot of work during the convention and the days leading up to it! Another big thank you to Johanna and Harold for helping prepare everything. And last but not least thank you to everyone who visited the Aniwest Tea Workshop and showed so much interest and engaged with us.

But wait, there's more!

Since we still had some leftover tea, I gave some of it away to guests of the workshop that approached me afterwards. On the second day of the convention, Johanna and I had two tea sessions in the dining room. We invited everyone who wanted to join and brought some tea to the organizers and helpers of the convention. We made some new friends, some of which already knew about gongfu brewing and approached us because they saw us brewing. Some were just curious and wanted to know what we were doing. Some of them we approached and asked if they wanted to join our tea session. It was a great experience and I hope we’ll be able to do it again next year!

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