Toronto Tea Festival

Speakers 2023

Kevin Gascoyne

British taster Kevin Gascoyne was weaned on tea and has been buying it in Asia since 1989.  Since 1993 every Spring has found him up in the Himalayas, obsessively sourcing the finest seasonal leaves of the region.  Over the years his passion for the black teas of India has spread to the plantations of many other countries. In Canada he co-owns, runs and shop-keeps the award winning Camellia Sinensis teahouses and Tea Schools of Montréal and Québec City. He and his fellow tasters travel to the tea gardens of Asia every year to source their internationally renowned catalogue of rare and collectibles. He is also a founding partner of the Tea Studio project in Nilgiri, India.  Kevin, having written for publications all over the World, still pops up in various publications and has co-authored a couple of prize-winning tea books including ‘Tea, History, Terroirs, Varieties’ voted World’s Best Tea Book 2014 by the industry at the World Tea Awards and now published in 6 languages. He is also a founding partner of Tea Journey magazine.

Kept busy with a wide range of blogs, workshops, conferences, seminars, research, field consulting and other tea shenanigans in North America, Africa, Europe and Asia he is also a director of the Canadian Tea and Herbal Association and recently launched the Tea Masters Cup Canada competition. His colleagues claim that Kevin’s daily tea consumption compares to the flow of some small rivers.

Phil Rushworth became a Chinese Tea professional after being happily thrust into the tea business in 2014 when he and his wife, Zhen, create ZhenTea. Starting with zero knowledge about tea, Phil is being rapidly educated by Zhen and her mother Jianli who is the author of 6 books on Chinese tea and has over 2 decades working with tasting grade, fine Chinese tea. Phil has met with expert producers and farmers all over China and combines his ‘behind the scenes’ access with his western perspective to share what can seem like arcane knowledge in a way that is down to earth, relatable and possibly even fun.

Phil Rushworth
Linda Gaylard

Linda Gaylard is a Tea Sommelier located in Toronto.

She is the author of the international best selling,

THE TEA BOOK, Winner of the World Tea Award for Best Tea Publication (2017).

Published by DK, a division of Penguin Random House, The Tea Book is a world tour of the art of tea. It has been translated into 12 languages.

Linda appears in media interviews, is a consultant and spokesperson for the food and beverage industry, lectures, teaches tea classes and hosts tea events.

Website: The Tea Stylist Social @theteastylist

Speech topic: The Hidden World of the Tea Plant

From its wild origins in the foothills of the Himalayas, to its orderly rows in large tea gardens, to the windowsills of tea lovers, the tea plant is tended the world over. Learn the basic botanical traits and anatomy of this revered plant and how its internal functions contribute to the unique characteristics of our favourite beverage.

Speech topic: Fostering Tea Community Through Sustainability

Nadia De La Vega is Tea Content & Compliance Manager at DAVIDsTEA and Celia Aceae is Tea Research & Development Specialist. Together they are critical members of the DAVIDsTEA Labo de thés.

Program Description: DAVIDsTEA is well known for its unique, intense, and sometimes seemingly impossible tea blends. But what does it take to develop these teas? Where do the ideas come from? What exactly happens in the mysterious ‘Labo de thés’? Discover all this and more as two specialists join us to talk about tea; from the initial conceptualization of a blend to the cup in your hand today.

Nadia De La Vega from David’s Tea
Amy Lou Taylor

Speech topic: The Art of Tea and Tasseomancy

Have you always wanted to learn the Art of Tea Leaf Reading? 

Then this introductory presentation is for you! 

Tea is steeped in history and a healthy smattering of superstition, and reading fortunes with it hearkens back to days of the old divinatory art forms of the Geomancy; interpreting symbols and formations made by random objects. 

Tasseomancy (tea leaf reading) is the Art and Practice of divination by the interpretation of symbolic patterns made by tea leaves in a teacup. Join Amy as she talks about how this form of divination came to be the Art it is today. 

She will cover its rich history, mystery and origins, the tools used and the forms it is done in. This presentation is an interactive, fun and informative session and is open to all ages!

About Amy Lou Taylor; For 30+ years Amy has been a Tea Enthusiast and a professional Tea Leaf and Card Reader. She is the sole owner of TAOTAT’s Mystic Tea & Brooms, est. 2009. Amy is a Certified TAC Tea Sommelier Professional, Tea Educator and Broomsquire. She also was a contributing writer for the Tea and Herb Association of Canada’s Herbal Modules for TAC Certified Tea Sommelier courses. Amy has contributed to many magazines, media outlets and blogs as an authority on Tasseomancy (however she feels she is always learn more about the Art) and is also in the process writing two books about the mystical side of tea. Find her on the web at

Rikko Osaki

Speech topic: Finding Your “Zen” With Japanese Green Tea

Certified Japanese green tea advisor

The founder of Hokusan Tea Canada – winning the Best Japanese Green Tea of 2022 by North American Tea Associations.

Rikko has a life-long passion for quality tea. It’s not just a beverage: it’s a whole experience, and a bonafide ritual that brings a special vibe to people’s lives. This invigorating drink has been helping people achieve their “inner zen” for thousands of years. Rikko believes that we all can learn so much from Japan’s amazing tea culture. While introducing the finest green tea from all over Japan, Rikko can help everyone experience this remarkable tea and find some solace from the chaos and stress of daily living.

Speech Topic: Introduction to Kintsugi
Kintsugi is a Japanese traditional method of mending broken ceramics. One of kintsugi’s philosophies, “resilience” attracted attention especially during the pandemic period because it sublimates scars into beautiful art instead of denying or hiding them.
In this lecture, you will be immersed in the origin of kintsugi which can be traced back 9,000 years. With deep philosophies beyond concepts of resiliency, participants will learn about the various materials used, the unseen structure and process of Kintsugi, its crisis, and its future.


About Shuichi
Shuichi was born in Japan and was heavily involved in various arts throughout his life. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology which allowed him to delve deeper into understanding human cognition, perception, and expression.  
The kintsugi technique of giving new artistic life to previously fragmented pieces is appealing to Shuichi because this process represents healing oneself.
Shuichi has been practicing kintsugi in Japan since 2005. He continued this practice upon moving to Toronto in 2019 and hopes to bring greater awareness and appreciation to this unique Japanese art. His other passions include Bizen ware pottery, as well as the philosophies of Zen and Vipassana meditation.

Dennis Dmitrovic from Relaxing Rocco

Dennis Dmitrovic, owner and founder of Relaxing Rocco, is passionate about tea, cats, meditation, and mindfulness.  Dennis is a Certified Tea Sommelier with THAC, a UKTA Tea Champion, a Certified Meditation Teacher with Yoga Alliance Canada, and has completed the University of Toronto’s, School of Continuing Education, certificate “Foundations of Applied Mindfulness Meditation”. 

Mindfulness and Tea Meditation

Most tea drinkers have at least one cup of tea each day, making it the perfect way to integrate mindfulness into your daily routine. Engaging your senses and focusing on your tea, taking time to press pause on the day.  The goal is to concentrate your attention on tea drinking until you finish with little effort and also intensify your enjoyment of the tea.

“Tea is an act complete in its simplicity. When I drink tea, there is only me, and the tea. The rest of the world dissolves. There are no worries about the future. No dwelling on past mistakes. Tea is simple: Loose-leaf tea, hot pure water, a cup. I inhale the scent, tiny delicate pieces of the tea floating above the cup. I drink the tea, the essence of the leaves becoming a part of me. I am informed by the tea, changed. This is the act of life, in one pure moment, and in this act the truth of the world suddenly becomes revealed; all the complexity, pain, drama of life is a pretense, invented in our minds for no good purpose. There is only the tea, and me, converging.”

Preena Chauhan from Arvinda’s

Speech topic: Brewing A Perfect Cup Of Masala Chai, The Basics

Preena Chauhan is an Indian food expert, entrepreneur and author of New Indian Basics (Appetite by Random House) along with her mother Arvinda Chauhan. For nearly three decades the mother-and-daughter duo have been teaching traditional and modern Indian cuisine with the goal of making it exceptionally delicious with absolute ease.

Join Preena in a lively demonstration and talk about the art of making traditional Masala Chai, India’s most beloved hot beverage—black tea infused with warming spices and milk. Through operating her own chai café Arvinda’s Spices & Chai and her years of experience of masala making and teaching Indian cooking, she’ll share with you Arvinda’s tradition of making authentic Masala Chai.

Michelle Pierce Hamilton

Speech topic: More than a Gut Feeling: Tea, the Microbiome and Viruses

The human microbiome is a diverse world of trillions of bacteria that covers the human body inside and out, and is now understood to directly influence our health in a myriad of ways including emphasis on the strength of our immune function and our susceptibility to viruses. Tea has long been researched and praised for its it many health benefits, on account of over thousands of bioactive polyphenolic compounds. Since the microbiome’s powers to work for us or against us is largely derived from what we eat and drink, these combined truths leave tea lovers wondering, does any evidence exist to show if tea (camellia sinensis) has a meaningful role in protecting us against viruses like influenza or even SARS COV2?

Michelle Pierce Hamilton is a practising Nutritionist, Certified Tea Sommelier, and Healing Arts Practitioner/Teacher, passionate about evidence-based tea & health. These combined philosophies and disciplines are the spirit behind Michelle’s Nutrition-based tea brand, beTeas (www.beTeas.comand The Tea Lounge, an ‘old world’ teahouse where local food meets excellent tea, based on valuing the health and well-being of people and the planet. The shop hosts a range of unique tea themed events and classes in tea, nutrition and healing arts.

An educator at heart, Michelle has been an instructor for over 20 years for various programs of nutrition, tea sommelier and project management. A long-time industry project management professional (PMP), Michelle also continues to consult and train in the health care sector.

The Tea Lounge is located in London Ontario:

Amy Lou Taylor

Speech topic: “Tea Medicine” The History And Practice Of Medicinal Tea In China

Everyone has heard that tea began as a medicinal herb, but for most of us the story stops there.

Did you know that tea was written about extensively in Chinese medical texts for more than 2000 years?

Find out why the ancient physicians both loved and were cautious about our favorite drink in this short talk presented by registered acupuncturist and tea history buff Robert Coons.

Robert Coons is a registered acupuncturist, qigong expert, and authority on Daoist Meditation. He owns Chayo Tea Friends and previously won first and second place prizes in the North American Tea Championships in the Baked and Aged Oolong category.
He operates a clinic in Toronto where he also teaches about tea, wellbeing and Meditation.