By Si Chen
The Expo floor was a showcase of innovative tea products from manufacturers, specialty tea suppliers and unique teaware manufacturers, with a delightful mix of first time exhibitors and returning vendors.
Premala Srikantha (right), director of tea promotion from Sri Lanka Tea Board
Exhibits were integrated this year with healthy beverages and tea offerings mingled across the floor unlike previous shows when aisles were designated by product category.
There were 132 exhibitors listed in the show directory and 50 additional in the Chinese pavilion. Those with the largest displays included International Tea Importers, Aiya, Taiwan Tea Manufacturers, and Teas Etc.
Attendees were presented with informative product descriptions. At many booths the founders revealed the inspiration behind their offerings. The floor with its wide range of exhibitors from vendors and exporters to entrepreneurs and engineers was an ideal place to discover solutions for current business challenges and new partnerships possibilities, while gathering insights on the latest trends and sipping and savoring the interesting tea products from across the globe.
“We are thrilled to discover that the expo has attracted all of the industry players,” said Xiaorui Deng, the committee coordinator of the Hubei Provincial tea group of 16 independent tea manufacturers from China. “Although we are facing a language barrier, attendees are tea professionals and looking for specific information or products with clear goals. Good teas speak for themselves – the interactions have been vibrant and healthy,” he said.
Tsubakitani Mitsuko (left), certified Japanese tea instructor from Nihon-cha instructor, and Hiroshi Nishikawa (right), manager of World Green Tea Association in Japan.
“I am delighted to see that there are so many companies offering matcha-based products,” said Hiroshi Nishikawa from World Green Tea Association, adding, “matcha has surely become a nation-wide trend.” The association is promoting green tea by hosting recurring seminars, the World Green Tea conference and competition. They also have a dedicated publication ‘Ryokucha Tsushin’ on green tea.
“I feel that there should be more publicity given to organized events happening in the exhibition hall, such as the Special tasting events or tea ceremony,” said Premala Srikantha from Sri Lanka tea board, “We are well-prepared to showcase our black teas and country, and find out that attendees were not given enough (marketing) attention to come to our events. We hope to see more events marketing just to keep attendees oriented.”
James Oliveira at Aiya Ceremonial Green Tea was one of several matcha manufacturers and matcha teaware and equipment suppliers at the show. Interest in the powdered tea dates to 2006-07 when Jamba Juice first brought it over from Japan, explains Oliveira. “Americans have been experimenting with it ever since,” he said, noting the diverse uses from lattes and smoothies to pastries, salad and desserts. “Matcha is a lifestyle choice that has become a staple in cafes,” he said.
Liming Mao (right), CEO of Zhejiang Tea Group, along with staff Shengyuan Chen and Jing Gao, as well as entrepreneur Tg’s Sophia. Sophia developed a venture with Zhejiang Tea Group after meeting at last year’s expo. This year Sophia is jointly launching her products with her supplier at World Tea Expo.
Exhibitors interviewed by the World Tea News team described the show as productive with a busy opening day but noted that in prior years daily attendance was larger. There also appeared to be a greater percentage of entrepreneurs who had not yet opened for business, according to veteran exhibitors.
All praised the educational program for drawing good prospects to the show. Sellers noted with admiration that the tea community is sincerely down-to-earth, vigorously innovative and supportive of each other.
Many exhibitors said they welcomed the Expo’s return to Las Vegas in mid-June 2016. Show management confirmed signups were brisk, reporting much of the space had already been allocated for next year’s June 15-17 event at the Las Vegas Convention Center.