Speakers Biographies

Speaker Bios

For the complete schedule and times, see the Program Schedule page.

Amy Taylor

Amy Taylor

Speech topic: The Mystic Side of Tea (Saturday)

For 30+ years Amy Taylor has been a Tea Enthusiast and a professional Tea Leaf and Card
Reader. She is the sole owner of The Art of Tea and Tasseomancy’s Mystic Tearoom. Amy is a
Certified THAC Tea Sommelier Professional and currently studying with Ming Tea, towards her
Chinese Tea Sommelier. She is a contributing writer for the Tea and Herb Association of
Canada’s Herbal Modules for TAC Certified Tea Sommelier courses and is also in the process
writing a book about the Mystical Side of Tea. Find her on the web at www.taotat.ca.

Program Description:
As one of a handful of plants that have shaped the world; the superstitions, rituals and
ceremonies, the myths and legends built around Tea have been endlessly adapted and
reinvented across countries and cultures for centuries. Even now, people the world over have
their rituals around it, or maybe they had someone in their lineage who dabbled with reading
the tea leaves, or they themselves have made tea to soothe a family member or friend in a
time of need. What is it about this hot beverage, this exotic leaf and the liquor from it’s brew
that we find so heady, so mystical? Join Amy Taylor for an interactive discussion on what she
has been writing about in her upcoming book on the Mystical side of Tea.


Kevin Gascoyne

Speech topic: The Rare Tea Experience (Friday VIP Event)
Speech topic: Tea 101 (Saturday)
Speech topic: Darjeeling Tea (Sunday)

British tea taster Kevin Gascoyne has been buying tea in Asia since 1989. He started his career as a tea writer for publications in the U.K., the U.S.A. and Japan. Over the years his passion for the black teas of India has spread to the plantations of many other countries.

In Canada he is one of the owners of the Camellia Sinensis Tea Houses and Tea Schools of Montréal and Québec City. Each year he and his fellow tasters travel to the tea gardens of Asia to select teas for their internationally renowned catalogue.

As well as regular public tastings, Kevin is also involved in a wide range of workshops, conferences, seminars, research and consulting activities in North America and Asia. He also co-authored of the prize-winning book ‘Tea, History, Terroirs, Varieties’.


Philip Holmans

Philip Holmans

Speech topic: Survival Story of a Tea House (Saturday)

Owner of World Tea House (since 2009), Philip Holmans imports tea from dozens of countries focusing on small farmed, organic, direct trade teas and tisanes. He is also a tea consultant on many projects including chef’s recipes, beer, cider, cocktails, custom blends for food service and more. An expert on farm-to-cup process, he has worked on various tea farms around the world, planting, harvesting and processing tea. Philip is a strong advocate for local business, a founding member of I Love Local Halifax, and a mentor for CEED (Centre for Entrepreneurship and Development) Nova Scotia.

Program Description:
In my 10 year journey as a small independent tea house and tea importer l’ve had a lot thrown at me, from landlord issues, construction, closed second locations, and overwhelming community support.
I’ll take you through my journey, offering up helpful advice and insight on operating a successful tea business. Touching on topics like wholesaling, e-commerce, managing a physical store, staffing, budgeting and more.


Linda Gaylard

Speech topic: Botany of the Tea Plant (Saturday)

Linda Gaylard is a Tea Sommelier located in Toronto. She is the author of the international best selling, The Tea Book, Winner of the 2017 World Tea Award for Best Tea Publication. 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

Program Description:
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 of this revered plant and how selecting and cultivating its unique characteristics has contributed to the enjoyment of our favourite beverage.


David Campbell

David Campbell

Speech topic: All Tea is Camellia Sinensis, Right? (Saturday)

David Campbell is a Canadian currently residing in the San Francisco area of California. A lifelong tea drinker, David thought often of running a tea business and when the Cat Stevens’ 1970 album “Tea for the Tillerman” came out he knew that if he ever owned a tea company it would be called Tillerman Tea. He does and he did.

David’s passion for tea fully ignited while he was in graduate school and stopped drinking coffee (he hasn’t had coffee in over 40 years – ok, once.) Tea became an “all consuming” hobby that subsequently developed into a business – but David regards it still as a passion where he learns new aspects about tea practically every day. An academic by training David spent 30 years in the wine industry, culminating as CEO of Clos Du Val winery. He entered the tea business in 2007, when he founded The Tillerman Tea Company. Tillerman Tea specializes in the tea of Taiwan, specifically, authentic, single-source oolong from growers and producers committed to sustainability. David has been travelling regularly to Taiwan since 2001.

David has delivered presentations at the University of California at Davis, the Tea Guild of Canada, the Toronto Tea Festival, the Northwest Tea Festival (Seattle) and the PDX Teafest (Portland). He has published several articles on tea in “The Art of Eating” and is a contributor to the recent book, “The Soul and Spirit of Tea” He currently is at work on book about the teas of Taiwan. Tillerman Tea now ships authentic Taiwan oolong tea to customers throughout the United States and Canada. You can learn more at www.tillermantea.net.

Program Description:
One of the first lessons learned by those new to tea is that it all hails from the same
plant: camellia sinensis. To be sure, there is a host of different cultivars but these are all
of the species camellia sinensis (v. sinensis or v. assamica). There are not different plants
for white, green, yellow, oolong, black and dark tea. It is nice, and it is neat and tidy.
Sadly, it I also wrong; there are other species of camellia that are used to produce what
anyone would call tea. This presentation will take a critical look at this myth and I will
propose an alternate view to the prevailing orthodoxy.


Helen Kong & Sorlie Madox

Helen Kong & Sorlie Madox

Speech topic: Ceramic Tea Wares: Form, Function, and the Making Process (Saturday)

Helen Kong and Sorlie Madox are the founders of Secret Teatime, a ceramics
studio dedicated to making tea wares and bespoke tablewares for restaurants
and cafes in the city. Both are practitioners of the Japanese Way of Tea; the
principles and philosophy of Chado are at the core of the creative and making
processes of Secret Teatime’s wares. They believe that their wares need to be
functional and unique, but in harmony with the tea being made.

Program Description:
Tea wares are an essential part of the tea steeping process. In this presentation
we will talk about the form and function of tea wares commonly used for
Japanese teas (they can be used for other teas as well). We will also talk about
materials and our making process. Samples of different tea steeping vessels will
be available for participants to hold and experience.


Heather Kingdon

Heather Kingdon

Speech topic: Afternoon Tea & Etiquette (Saturday)

After completing my undergraduate degree in History and Celtic Studies at the University of Ottawa, it was no surprise to friends and family that I decided to pursue a master’s degree in History at the University of Toronto, specializing in the social, commercial, and domestic lives of the middle class in nineteenth-century England. My post-graduate degree provided me with the opportunity to combine two passions of mine- British history and tea- into one body of research for my final thesis. Tea has played an important role in the social and domestic lives of many throughout history and this is something I enjoy talking about in my current role as a museum interpreter. Outside of academia, I am often found exercising my more artistic side through painting, sketching, singing, and songwriting- things I am also very passionate about.

Program Description:
This presentation explores some of the ways that tea influenced material culture, social
behaviour, and ideals of social class in middle-class households in nineteenth-century England, keeping
in mind the ways in which ideas were circulated through texts such as household manuals, women’s
magazines, and etiquette books.




Speech topic: Concept to Cup (Sunday)

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.


Soo Park

Soo Park

Speech topic: Journey to the Land of the Morning Calm: Korean Tea Regions & Types (Sunday)

Soo Park, the founder and owner of Soocha Tea, was born and grew up loving tea in South Korea. After having immigrated to Canada, in order to broaden her horizon on tea, she pursued and completed the Tea Sommelier courses at George Brown College in Toronto and became a certified TAC tea sommelier®.

Soocha Tea, the first tea company in Canada that specializes in Korean tea, was established in 2018, and introduces fresh premium Korean teas to Canada and sources them directly from the

Soo also introduces Korean culture to Canada including Korean Gyubang Gongyae (handcrafts and hand-sewing), Korean food, traditional desserts, Korean tea wares as well as cooking with tea.

Program Description:
This presentation will inform you of Korean teas which have been rarely known or available in
the western market. Learn about the major tea regions, Korean tea types and processing
methods as well as the tea festivals in the tea regions and Korean tea culture.


Phil Rushworth

Phil Rushworth

Speech topic: Travel to the Heart of Chinese Tea: Stories of a Western Tea Newbie Turned Tea Savvy (Sunday)

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.

Program Description:
Having visited many remote Chinese tea regions, Phil shares with you the most unforgettable experiences from his tea travels. Meeting top-notch producers, visiting incredible bio-dynamic tea farms, walking under 100-year-old tea tree canopies and more. This is the journey of a devoted coffee drinker turned tea lover from western land.


Tracy Bell

Tracy Bell

Speech topic: Flash-Frozen Tea? Reinventing The Fresh Tea Category (Sunday)

Tracy Bell is a corporate exec turned start-up CEO. In 2016, a health scare in the family prompted Tracy and her husband to reimagine the way tea is processed in an effort to extract more antioxidants. That concept led to the creation of a new category of tea – called Fresh-Leaf TEA – and a product that is being called “the future of tea” by industry leaders.

In 2017 their innovation was named Best New Product (Innovation category) at World Tea Expo. And in 2019 Millennia TEA was one of eight companies globally selected for participation in the #1 food innovation accelerator in the world, Food-X, in New York City.

Before Millennia TEA, Tracy worked as PR strategist and television reporter, receiving national and international accolades for her work. Originally from Southern Ontario, Tracy has lived in Atlantic Canada for 15+ years and considers herself a full-fledged Maritimer. Tracy and her husband Rory live in New Brunswick with their two (awesome!) kids.

Program Description:
Tea processing is an archaic method by which the leaves from the tea plant are transformed into dried leaves for brewing. Join this this session to learn how Canadian disruptor, Millennia TEA, is creating an entirely new category of tea – fresh- picked and flash-frozen – to deliver maximum antioxidants and fuel wellness.


David O'Connor

David O’Connor

Speech topic: Facing the Dragons (Sunday)

David O’Connor is an MBA graduate, Tea Sommelier and co-founder of Genuine Tea. He was born in England and grew up in Asia where tea was a regular part of his life. His passion for tea grew during his 5 years living in Taiwan with his partner, Sarah Wilcox. Together the pair discovered the wonders of handcrafted teas and travelled to tea growing regions around the globe learning from tea masters and forming relationships with tea growers. David and Sarah moved to Toronto in 2015 and turned their passion for tea into a thriving business selling farmer direct teas, Japanese Matcha and organic herbal blends. Genuine Tea was voted Best Tea in Toronto the past two years in a row in NOW Magazine and can be found in over 350 locations nationwide. In 2018, David and Sarah faced the dragons on CBC’s Dragons’ Den and secured a deal with Arlene Dickinson who is helping to take their business to the next level.

Program Description:
David from Genuine Tea talks about the business of tea and his experience on Dragons’ Den.