Tea certainly continues to be on the rise, according to organizers of the annual World Tea Expo. The recent event—held June 24 - 26 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, Nev.—gathered more than 200 exhibiting companies from 16 countries and more than 4,600 tea industry members from 39 countries. The trade show also featured 53 first-time exhibitors on the show floor—26,080 net square feet of all things tea. World Tea Expo is the largest and most prominent event for the tea industry, catering to tea retailers, restaurateurs, food service leaders, hoteliers, spa owners and other business professionals who want to learn about the latest opportunities and tea trends, which consumers can expect to see more of in the future. Next year's event, 2012 World Tea Expo, is already set for June 1 - 3, 2012.
George Jage, president and founder of World Tea Expo, said, "The U.S. market for specialty teas is literally just coming to a boil, and that was certainly clear on the Expo floor. The international tea industry gathered to conduct transactions and take its businesses to the next level. Of course, without a doubt, now is the time to build on tea's massive gains in the marketplace. Savvy tea professionals and allied organizations who attended the Expo already know about the opportunities in the booming tea business, and now they understand how they can grow alongside it."
Ankit Lochan, director at Lochan Tea Limited, an exhibitor at the event, said, "2011 World Tea Expo is one of the best shows we have done around the world. Nothing better could be expected. We got an amazing response and tons of inquiries from genuine buyers."
Royal Tea of Kenya's CEO, Ardith Blumenthal, noted, "Our first exhibit at World Tea Expo was a jam-packed experience as our company launched its specialty tea line on the show floor and in a private tasting." The company's chief operating office/owner, Joy M. W'Njuguna, added, "I made a promise to my grandfather that his Kenyan tea would travel all over the world, and 2011 World Tea Expo provided the opportunity and forum for us to do just that."
Beth Johnston, founder and CEO of Teas Etc., said, "The quality of buyers at this year's show exceeded our expectations, enhancing the value of an already successful venue for Teas Etc."
AOI Tea Company's Chieko Yamamoto, vice president and COO, said. "This show was well attended and we had quality visitors, and we had strong interest from potential new customers. It was worth it."
Linton Pope, CEO of Red Leopard Tea Company, said, "World Tea Expo has been a remarkable experience for us in many respects. During the three days, we received very impressive responses from potential buyers as well as tea rooms, not only within the U.S.A but also around the world. As a consequence of this Expo, Red Leopard Tea has stamped its mark in the emerging tea industry."
Bruce Richardson, owner of Elmwood Inn Fine Teas and Benjamin Press, commented, "Elmwood Inn Fine Teas has been present at every Expo over the past nine years, and this year's booth was again buzzing with visitors from around the world."
World Tea Expo Buyer's Choice Awards
At the show, the Winners Tasting Circle offered attendees the opportunity to sample and vote upon 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winning teas from the 2010 North American Tea Championship and 2011 North American Tea Championship Iced Tea Class. Only 2011 World Tea Expo exhibitors, who were also winners of the North American Tea Championship, were able to compete. After voting at the Winners Tasting Circle by attendees, the winners of the Buyer's Choice Awards were announced:
Ajiri Tea Company, LLC, Ajiri Tea - Best Black Tea
Art of Tea, Petal Petal - 2011 Best Foodservice
Art of Tea, Amore - Best Blended Tea
Dethlefsen & Balk Inc., 22122 "Mango 'n Friends" - Best Flavored Tea
Ecrossland, Inc., Dayang Dragon Well - Best Green Tea
Gourmetti Brands, Chaitea Passion Fruit - 2011 Best Ready-to-Drink
MarketSpice, MarketSpice Signature Blend - 2010 Best Ready-to-Drink
Rishi Tea, Mint Rooibos - 2010 Best Foodservice
QTrade Teas & Herbs, Red Robe Oolong - Best Oolong Tea
Unity Brands Group LLC/ Dilmah Tea, Dilmah Pure Chamomile Flowers - Best Unflavored Herbal Tea
Tea Infusion Challenge Winner
In addition, Steven Downer, of Sipping Streams Tea Company in Fairbanks, Ala., took the top spot at the 2011 Tea Infusion Challenge, a competitive event that determines the best Infusionist—a tea professional (non-manufacturer) that has comprehensive product knowledge, a high level of brewing skills and the innate talent to best express a tea's characteristics and its intended cup.
World Tea Expo Highlights
World Tea Expo also boasted the largest and most comprehensive tea curriculum in the world, featuring more than 60 conference sessions, including hands-on skill building workshops, focused tea tastings, technical education and insightful industry round tables. Some of the highly educational subjects that were covered included: launching a dynamic tea brand; tea business analytics; top tea retail trends; creating exotic signature tea blends; the art of chai; menu planning; and a session that asks, "Can you tell the difference between a $20-a-pound tea and a $200-a-pound tea?," among others.
During the keynote presentation from Chuck Underwood, author of The Generational Imperative - Understanding Generational Differences in the Workplace, Marketplace and Living Room, Daniel Higbie, attendee and owner of The St. James Tearoom, said, "We won't grow big as an industry until we get the men in." The Albuquerque, N.M entrepreneur said he has crafted cigar teas—a three-course tea meal with fine cigars and aperitifs—that open up tea culture to men in a creatively inspired fashion. Underwood then encouraged the audience to factor in fun. "The tea industry has the education piece down, but now is the time to introduce the fun, enjoyable side of tea," he said.
A panel discussion, called "Japanese Tea: Plan B," offered insights on the current situation in Japan and its tea industry. Rona Tison, ITO-EN's senior vice president of corporate relations, shared with audience members the thorough and consistent testing that ITO-EN tea undergoes from farm all the way through to manufacturing processes. She also noted a recent CNN report that illustrated how much tea would have to be consumed in order for a consumer to experience toxic levels of radiation. "The amount one would need to consume is equal to 200 bottles of RTD [ready-to-drink] tea or three pounds of tea per day for a year," said Tison.
Another highlight was the "Cooking with Tea Workshop" at Charlie Palmer's Aureole at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino. The Workshop was open to restaurateurs, chefs, hoteliers and other foodservice leaders, and it showcased how chefs are turning to tea as an ingredient in dishes as well as a premium beverage for the menu.
This year's Expo also featured a World Origin Tasting Tour—an interactive and informative program that allowed attendees to experience the tastes and cultures of some of the most important tea-growing regions in the world, including Sri Lanka, India, China, Japan and Taiwan. Expert tour guides were scheduled, leading attendees on a journey through each country's tea culture and unique manufacturing processes. During the "tour," attendees tasted around eight teas from each origin, giving them a solid understanding of the flavors and profiles of the regions.
Overall, as the annual trade event for the $8 billion tea industry—which is expected to grow to nearly $15 billion in 2012—World Tea Expo offered delegates extensive product knowledge, opportunities to connect with peers and a forum to learn about the latest products.
The next World Tea Expo takes place June 1 - 3, 2012. Visit www.WorldTeaExpo.com to learn more. In addition, the tea industry is headed to Philadelphia, Pa., Sept. 9 - 10 for World Tea East. Visit www.WorldTeaEast.com.
About World Tea Expo
World Tea Expo is the premier business-to-business event dedicated to specialty tea; it's the three days each year when industry members determine trends, optimize product lines, increase knowledge and network with peers. World Tea Expo is produced by World Tea Media, which also produces World Tea East, World Tea News, North American Tea Championship, Tea Infusion Challenge, World Tea Ratings, World Tea Buyers Guide and World Tea Webinars. For more information, visit www.WorldTeaExpo.com.