Chance to taste and touch all things tea

The Prague Post

Vyšehrad hosts festival showcasing the world’s second most popular drink

“A spot of tea” takes on a whole new meaning at the annual ČajoMír Fest (Tea Peace Fest) Aug. 21 at Vyšehrad. Music, dancing, art, workshops and more are all centered on celebrating the world’s second most popular drink (water is the first).

“We want to present to visitors traditional tea art from all over the world,” said Květa Bílková, festival organizer and tea art specialist. “Visitors last year found it interesting and said it was nice to see the countries together and the differences in tea styles.”

This is Bílková and her colleague Jaromír Horák’s second go-round of the festival. The pair are the only European members in the World Tea Union, a well-known group in Asian countries, made up of professors, tea masters and tea dealers. In 2008, they were invited to the union’s annual conference in Gimhae, South Korea, where they gave a small presentation on their activities in the Czech Republic and were invited to join the union itself.

“We were accepted because of the appreciation for what we were doing in the Czech Republic and Europe,” Bílková said. “It was a very good experience for us and important for our continuing work. We saw that it makes sense, and we wanted to do more.”

“More” included returning to the Czech Republic and establishing a nonprofit organization, ČajoMír o.s., to put on the annual festival, the goal of which Bílková said is to spread tea culture, promote tea rooms and give tea lovers the opportunity to get together. (They also plan to open a “tea school” later this year.) The inspiration for the festival came from their visit to Korea.

“During the conference, they had a special culture program and festival in a park,” Bílková said. “We were totally surprised. There were 200 women spread throughout, sitting on blankets in the grass. It was a traditional Korean tea festival, presenting traditional tea art.”

Bílková and Horák adopted the same format for ČajoMír Fest. Last year, more than 2,000 people visited more than 40 tasting points to experience tea from around the world. Visitors first watched the actual preparation process for different tea varieties and then, of course, tasted the finished product. This year, the festival will focus on the Korean style, but Bílková said there will also be presentations of Chinese, Japanese, Mongolian and English styles of tea. In the evening, Bílková and Horák will put on a synchronized tea preparation show.

More than a drink

Alongside tea tastings is a music stage and gastronomy corner. Throughout the day, “some of the best Czech players on oriental instruments” will entertain the crowd, Bílková said. Vlastimil Matoušek will play the shakuhachi, a Japanese bamboo flute. Elena Kubičková will play the esraj, a traditional instrument from India. Chinese singer Fun-yun Song, whom Bílková describes as “so full of wisdom,” will also perform. Over in the gastronomy corner, organizers have partnered with a cooking school to offer lessons and demonstrations in a variety of Asian cooking techniques. For an extra fee, one can learn how to prepare traditional foods – then taste the results.

Other attractions include a Czech pottery presentation, workshops, traditional Indian dance performances, a kid’s corner and, of course, a competition. Visitors will choose the winner of the “Best Tea Preparation” contest. Last year, there were two winners: one from the Prague 2 teahouse Čajovna U Džoudyho and a girl who had never publicly prepared tea before.

“It shows that no one should be afraid to join us. Just do it,” Bílková said. “In fact, if you want to join, you still can.”

Otherwise Bílková advises just join in the fun and enjoy the atmosphere of oriental music and the beautiful park-like surroundings while tasting tea and food.

“Anyone interested in tea has to come,” she said.