World Tea Expo Gathers Tea Community


World Tea Expo, the largest, global B2B event for the industry, covered every facet of tea while attracting top businesses from more than 50 countries for a product-packed exhibit hall, insightful educational sessions and plentiful networking opportunities.

The Expo, held June 1 – 3 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nev., assembled highly-qualified professionals and buyers, who sought first-rate suppliers, intelligence on the latest trends, the newest teas from across the globe and the freshest tea wares.

"Once again, World Tea Expo was a great show for us,” said exhibitor Sascha Karimpour, president, Dethlefsen & Balk Inc. “Looking at our contacts, we met approximately 30 percent of our current customers and about 70 percent new and very qualified leads – enough to ensure more stable growth for the next year for our North American business."

John Chaffey, director of sales at The Metropolitan Tea Co., observed the event signaled "a marked change in the general direction of the economy. Buyers were more prepared, educated, focused and ready to purchase when compared to the past few tentative years. The usual mix of familiar faces was fresh with new players. Eager new attendees added energy to the growing tea marketplace. The ‘quest’ for tea is alive and well at World Tea Expo."

Brandon Ford, owner of Vintage TeaWorks, said, "I could not have chosen a better forum to launch my product line. The broad demographics of the attendees allowed my products to receive the exposure we need to be successful. From the small tea shop owner to the buyers for major specialty retailers, I received great leads and was introduced to professionals who were prepared to place orders. As a first time exhibitor, I am convinced this will be my must attend event every year. I had such a great response from the World Tea Expo attendees that I cannot wait until 2012 World Tea East in Philadelphia.”

Karin Zajac, partner at Free Tea, noted, “This year’s World Tea Expo was the perfect opportunity to build exposure for our Free Tea brand and product. We made some great contacts and received very helpful feedback. As newbies to the industry, the advice and helpful tips we received from our seasoned peers were priceless. We are looking forward to next year for 2013 World Tea Expo.”

“This is the best professionally-managed tea expo that I have personally attended so far,” said Tea Board of India Chairman M.G.V.K. Bhanu.

Kim Jage, sales and marketing director, World Tea Media, which organized the event, explained, “World Tea Expo has successfully helped numerous professionals learn how to profit from tea, focus on quality tea and make key business decisions, and this year was no exception. The feedback on 2012 World Tea Expo, from the attendees and exhibitors, solidifies the Expo as the most comprehensive exhibition, educational event and business launch-pad in the world of tea.”

The 2012 World Tea Expo, which kicked off National Iced Tea Month, attracted nearly 4,000 established tea room owners, coffeehouse proprietors, retailers, foodservice and beverage professionals, spa managers, hoteliers and grocers. In addition, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman proclaimed June as “World Tea Month,” in honor of the event’s 10-year anniversary.

Educational Sessions

A panel discussion on “Will tea ever be as big as coffee?” was of the most buzzed about educational sessions Participants included Charles Cain, vice president, Tazo merchant and operations, Starbucks; Joseph Cugine, president, Argo Tea; and David De Candia, senior manager tea, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf along with Jack Groot, founder of JP’s Coffee and a consultant and founder of the Midwest Barista School.

Will the size of the tea retail market catch up to coffee? Will coffee retailers absorb much of the projected growth in tea sales? The matter continues to be a much-discussed focus for the tea trade, especially as the industry is experiencing a new breed of tea retail chains that are finding success in multiple locations in the United States.

See: U.S. Tea Sales Will Someday Top Coffee

World Tea NewsOther seminars and workshops looked at: tea science updates; how to put together a comparative tea and wine tasting; tea and health; applying principles of taste biology to the appreciation of teas and food pairings; evaluating grocery store tea blends; and improving the tea customer's palate. All of the educational sessions were a part of the event’s “No Repeat” policy, in honor of the 10-year anniversary. The Expo’s entire 2012 curriculum covered new ground and the hottest topics facing the industry.

Beau Bernstein, director of marketing, Rishi Tea, said, “The offering of courses and training seminars for new businesses and executives alike was perhaps the best list of subjects in years, and tea sellers would do well to visit the World Tea Expo just for the conferences and potential insights to be gleaned, for improving their business. In addition attendees and exhibitors alike were pleased with the level of quality and diversity on display this year – not just in courses but in range of teas. We look forward to an even bigger show in 2013.”

Tea Infusion Challenge

Tim Smith, “chief leaf” of retail/wholesale company The Tea Smith, Omaha, Neb., took the top spot at the 2012 Tea Infusion Challenge, held on June 3. Smith triumphed over several competitors as the best Infusionist – a tea professional (non-manufacturer) that has comprehensive product knowledge, experienced brewing skills and innate talent to best express teas' characteristics and intended cups.

“There’s so much more to tea than just placing a tea bag in a cup, and many tea consumers do not know that,” said Smith. “The tea Infusion Challenge does a great job of reinforcing education and training within the industry, so we can share with customers how each tea has its own character – how it’s grown, its origin or where it’s grown, how it’s traditionally enjoyed at origin.”

Smith said the Challenge “brings a laser-focus” on how important it is for a tea business to become highly familiar with its teas and the related processes and customs.

“At The Tea Smith, we train all of our employees in our teas, and we think this Challenge promotes and reminds us how essential it is for a tea company to communicate with customers and instruct them on the diversity of tea, tastes and preparation methods,” he said.

The Tea Infusion Challenge second place spot went to Charles Dawson, education manager and purchaser for traditional teas from The Domestic Goddess, a tea retailer in Everson, Wash. Johnathan Munsayac, owner and director of operations at Tranquil Tea Lounge in Fullerton, Calif., was named the third place winner.

Overall, the exciting and interactive Tea Infusion Challenge demonstrated how the same tea can taste drastically different depending on the method used to steep the tea, as contenders approached tea in both scientific and artistic ways, embracing tea’s nuances. Official judges rated each contender on: quality of infusion, such as liquor color, taste balance and harmonious extraction, as well as knowledge, professionalism, passion for tea, attention to detail and overall performance. The technical judge evaluated water temperature management, tea measurement, timing, pour precision and workflow.

A Strong International Presence

Additionally, aT (Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp.), a Korean government agency that supports and promotes food companies and farmers, brought the largest-ever delegation of Korean tea producers and exporters to the United States for 2012 World Tea Expo. The Tea Board of India, the government organization for the all-around development of India’s fine tea industry, also gathered a significant delegation of high-profile tea producers. Both delegations concentrated on enhancing demand and increasing global exports for their tea products.

And just like the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) gathers people from around the world and welcomes them to Southern Nevada, so did World Tea Expo with its Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony, appropriately hosted by the LVCVA. This special, not-often-seen-in-the-U.S. tea ceremony encouraged conference delegates – regardless of tea expertise – to partake and appreciate tea. The Taiwanese ceremony was created by Grand Master Tsai Rong Tsang, Lu-Yu Tea Culture Institute, and participants simultaneously served and received tea – silently.

Honoring 10 Years

To recognize the milestone 10-year anniversary of World Tea Expo, as well as leadership and dedication for tea, George and Kim Jage were presented with a special World Tea Award, presented by the global tea community and the exhibitors of World Tea Expo. The award was presented during a special reception for attendees on the evening of June 2, and it was organized and presented by Gail Gastelu, publisher of The Tea House Times, who worked with World Tea Expo exhibitors and key leaders to coordinate the award. FaithAnn Bailes, part of the original SFG Group that organized World Tea Expo; tea industry author James Norwood Pratt; and World Tea Expo Advisory Board, Beth Johnston of Teas Etc., helped present the crystal globe statuette that featured an etching of the World Tea Expo 10-year anniversary logo.

See: A Celebration of 10 Extraordinary Years