Sage Advice, Demonstrations and a Busy Show Floor Opening Day

Anupa Mueller
Anupa Mueller, VP Eco-Prima and the  Silver
Tips Tea Room

Beth Johnston, founder of Teas Etc. on Saturday treated attendees to a 60-year-old pu-erh.


Speaking here at World Tea East, Anupa Mueller, vice president, Eco-Prima, Inc. & Silver Tips Tea Room, urged her audience to become actively engaged in putting on tea tastings. “If you don’t do it for the love of tea, do it for the love of money.”

Consumers tend to buy what they have seen, touched and tasted, so retailers can guide their customers’ buying patterns through their selection of specific varieties for tasting sessions.

Margaret Heery, vice president, strategic marketing, Bunn-O-Matic Corp., delivered a data-filled talk on the strong growth of iced tea in the foodservice sector. The motivation for restaurants to promote sales of all beverages—not just iced tea—is clear: there is far more profit in drinks than in food.

According to Heery, researchers stated in 2005 that “green tea is the least popular beverage in the United States. By 2010, three out of four Americans were asking for green tea — graphic evidence that tastes change over time and retailers should stay current with those changes.

Heery said that Millennials, the generation born after 1981, are the key buying demographic for driving foodservice sales of iced tea. “They’re used to going out for everything,” she emphasized.

Margaret Heery
Margaret Heery, vice president, strategic marketing,
Bunn-O-Matic Corp.

Heery’s co-speaker, Michele Schmal, vice president of product management, NPD, CREST, noted that so far this year soft drinks make up 41% of all restaurant beverage servings, with coffee responsible for, 15%, tea for 13% and others making up the rest. But, she added, soft drinks were down about 5% from the previous year, while tea was up 4%.

Schmal also reported that of all tea sold, 88% is iced tea and just 12% hot tea. In other words, when one speaks of growth in tea sales that basically means growth in iced tea sales.

Cynthia Gold, chef and tea sommelier, The Boston Park Plaza Hotel, offered a well-received session on the culinary uses of tea, including everything from baked goods to pork roasts. Asserting that tea is her “passion,” Gold said that tea-infused foods can help differentiate a business from its competitors, while giving current customers a reason to pay the store more visits and increase the size of their orders. She encouraged participants to expand their imagination, using tea in salts, blends and rubs, and tea syrups.

“Tea is ‘Life in Balance,’” she said as she served tea cocktail using bourbon. “The alcohol relaxes you, the tea energizes you, and you get a healthy dose of antioxidants.” She cautioned that the tea should always be used to enhance the flavors, never as a gimmick.

Following the session, attendee Sue Kruger, co-owner of Amelia’s Teas & Holly, located in Mullica Hill, NJ, said Gold had inspired her to try some new techniques and tea-based ingredients at her small tea shop.

Meet Up groups were the topic for Dianna Harbin, San Diego-based certified tea specialist. Audience member Roxanne Yerkes, who owns a catering business in West Grove, PA, said Meet Up sounds like “a really good, inexpensive way to get together with others who have similar interests.” If some turn out to be catering prospects, so much the better.

World Tea News Editor and Publisher Dan Bolton presented on Top Tea Retail Trends. He noted that there has been an increase in the tea retail and food service sales from $5.2 billion in 2008 to $8.4 billion in 2011. The industry also saw impressive 18% increase in tea imports in 2010. Tea is currently 7th in sales in the refreshment beverage market following coffee and juice, but staying ahead of energy drinks.

"Availability boosts consumption," Bolton told the crowd. He said sales of RTD tea have grown 31% since 2006 to reach $4 billion. The nation's 145,000 convenience stores reported a 13.5% increase in sales of bottled tea last year, earning $1.2 billion.

He also noted strong growth in differentiated teas, those with third-party certifications, he explained. "The amount of Fair Trade tea is up 38% and certified organic tea sales were up 8% last year. The New York-based Rainforest Alliance now certifies 3.2% of all the worlds' tea," Bolton reported.

Beth Johnston of Teas Etc. offered a focused tasting of black teas including a Hawaiian black tea. Her talk was supported by her son Chris who had personally met some of the tea growers and producers. Sixteen attendees benefited from Johnston’s rich experience.

Chris Cason Tavalon Tea
Chris Cason of Tavalon Tea.

Chris Cason of Tavalon offered his contemporary twist on tea with his tea cocktail workshop. He treated attendees to his take on a hot toddy and an Earl Grey marTEAni.

Meanwhile Lisa Boalt Richardson offered a Tea 101 class for attendees looking to get a handle on the basics and Susan Peterson spoke to a dozen participants about the use of edible flowers including dandelion, rose of Sharon, clover, and linden.

Tea Tangent made a splash with their display of sustainably harvested hardwood tea accessories. This Pennsylvania-based company was certainly a local favorite as they presented beautifully crafted infusers, spoons, and other items that use no dyes, plastics, or resins and are use only food-grade oils.

Serendipitea of NY spread the word about some of their charitable efforts. For example they are offering two blends, Peace and Harmony; 20% of the sales are donated to the Peace Corps.

Sungarden Tea
A stunning display of herbals at Sungarden Tea.

By noontime the floor was hopping. Attendees, some of whom had eventful trips to the show because of the flooding issues that have challenged Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, found inspiration walking the exhibit hall floor and attending workshops.

Richard Thompson of Cynthia’s Cake World said he had finally found a use for all his extra cucumbers – a cucumber tea he saw at one of the booths. Patricia Stubbs of Tilly Mint’s was inspired by the culinary workshops and she was already working on ways to incorporate tea into her baking projects. There was a great deal of discussion of the health benefits of tea and the tea blends that was specially promoted for improving wellness. Finum’s new ZITA Tea Traveler and Woodford Wicks candles in glass teapots caught many eyes and had visitors talking. Sungarden Tea’s rainbow array of the different ingredients in their blends was much photographed.

Guayusa was introducing attendees to their product, a beverage made from a plant in the Ilyx family. It is attracting buyers because it is an herbal but has twice the caffeine of tea and is rich in antioxidants. This attention to this plant from Ecuador is helping to preserve the rainforest by giving financial value to a plant that has previously only carried cultural value.

Woodford Wicks
Woodford Wicks'  innovative candle concept.

Ajiri Tea is another company that is assisting in revitalizing local communities. Ajiri translates to “to employ” and this company employs 63 women in Kenya to create the labels using banana leaves. Each label is unique. The profits from sales of this Kenyan black tea are also returned to schools in Kisii, Kenya. This two year old company was pleased to have its tea recognized with an award this year so that they can demonstrate that not only is it a company that is doing good, it is a company that makes great tea.

John Harney, President of Harney & Sons, laughed with visitors saying, “You have to be friendly in this business.” As he discussed the evening networking reception at which he would be honored he said, “Make sure you come to the reception. I need someone to clap for me.”

Bill Waddington of TeaSource and Newman Johnston of Teas Etc. grabbed a moment to chat while Chris Johnston set up for one of Teas Etc. many tea tasting events. Lisa Boalt Richardson and Lynayn Mielke of International Tea Importers were spotted at one of the afternoon tasting events where the hazelnut Ti Kuan Yin was drawing raves.

“Singbulli is to be praised,” declared James Norwood Pratt as he presented some teas by Jay Shree Teas at the International Tea Importers booth. “Tea is one of the things we can name that reminds us of our human connections. I think of the women plucking those leaves to bring this to us.”

Exhibitor Fumi Sugita, general manager of Aiya, whose major product is matcha, said he appreciates the chance to meet people from the East Coast, where the dominant tea culture is Europe-centered. In the West he says, people are more familiar with Asian products like green tea or matcha. Here, he had a chance to educate retailers about products that were less familiar to them.

Neophyte retailer Jack Skehan, co-owner of The Loose Leaf Tea Co., Gibraltar, MI, was wowed by Bunn-O-Matic’s new Trifecta brewing machine. Equally suitable for coffee or tea, it features an LED display that flashes a step-by-step progress report on each brewing operation. The company claims it delivers consistent performance regardless of the quantity being brewed.

Donations support Japan's Red Cross.

Artist Michele Brody brought her interactive community-based art project to World Tea East. Modeled on a traditional Japanese tea house and large enough to host a tea ceremony for one or two guests, it was used here to help raise funds for disaster victims in Japan. In return for a donation, attendees were able to write personal messages on tea paper, which was then hung on the structure to create walls.