2011 World Tea Expo Recap
By Cynthia Fazekas
Part of the Adagio Teas display
A 400 year old matcha grinding stone
This year's World Tea Expo seemed to fly by all too quickly. First, let me state the obvious: Las Vegas is HOT. It was a toasty 103° F when we walked out of the airport to the taxi line. The dry heat did not make you feel like you were melting, but simply disintegrating on the spot. The need for iced tea was great indeed!
Once at the hotel and convention hall, I met up with my wonderful Adagio colleagues and began the booth set up process. It took longer than expected (it usually does - you would think we'd adjust our expectations!), but we eventually got it set to our satisfaction and were able to head out on the town and experience Vegas.
The first day of the show was alive with energy and anticipation. It is always revitalizing to spend time engaging with customers and competitors alike as we all share a common passion for tea. From networking to discussing trends and challenges, it is the best place to recharge our tea-biz batteries for the coming months.
Spending much of the time in our booth so as not to miss anyone, it was sometimes difficult to roam around to view all the exciting products being exhibited. Fortunately, our friend, blogger Chris Giddings of Tea-Guy, was cruising the aisles and showed us a nifty to-go cup basket brewer called Brewlux. It is a biodegradable, half-moon-shaped infuser designed to sit in your to-go cup. It is disposable, but can also be reused and is dishwasher safe.
Another new product we were able to try was an Iranian tea. A sip of this tea changes greatly while on your palate. It goes from dry and crisp to fruity, then woody-herbaceous and finally softly sweet in the finish. I'm hoping to try it again in a more controlled environment such as my home tea tasting table for further evaluation. The price is quite high but it certainly caught our attention.
Also present this year were a couple of Hawaiian tea companies. Nao Liko Tea Garden provides tea plants to Hawaiian growers and produces some small harvests. Tea Hawaii & Company exhibited, as did Moonrise Tea Garden. After we got to try Hawaiian teas at last year's Expo, it was great to see them doing well and we're very much looking forward to tea developments in this region.
The Tea Infusion Challenge was an exciting event to watch! The contestants had to brew several different teas that would be judged by each tea's producer to see whose brewing techniques could get the most out of the leaf. The four contestants handled the competition very well with a full audience looking on.
Our own Suzette Hammond, who won the challenge last year, was the MC of the event this year and did a fabulous job of interviewing the competitors and explaining to the audience the nuances of each brewing style. It was very entertaining to see Suzette in her element! The winner of the competition was Steven Downer, co-owner of Sipping Streams Tea Company in Fairbanks, AK. Congrats to Steven!
Education was also an important feature of the conference, with more than 60 classes and workshops. Everything tea related is covered, from tea tasting to business analytics, where tea business owners could get the information they need to be successful. Of course, more successful tea businesses mean more tea options for the eager consumer and steady growth for the tea industry as a whole.
At Adagio we are very willing to share our tea knowledge and experience within the industry and had three management members teaching this year. By contributing in this manner, as do many of our esteemed competitors, we hope to create a better tea industry and a better tea experience for both the casual tea drinker and the connoisseur.
There's nothing like being at the World Tea Expo, and so much more goes on than can possibly fit in one article. Hopefully you got a sense of how much is going on in the tea world and what an exciting time it is to be a tea drinker!