This year's World Tea Expo is my 3rd trip to this event. I've appreciated the opportunities to learn and meet new people each year. I've made friends and contacts from every corner of the world and every continent save for Antarctica. The events and sights from this first day of the expo are similar to those from the past two years. Full of energy, vibrant colors and effusive scents tantalizing for everyone here. Read more to learn more.
Day two of the 2011 World Tea Expo was spectacular! A couple presentations, a number of formal tastings, a private tasting and dinner with the Nepali delegation, Thomas Shu's traditional Taiwanese Hakka Tea Songs and more! All packed into one wonderful day!
As fast as the day went for me, a lot happened this day between 10AM and 5:30PM. So let's get started!
Saturday morning I arrived a bit early for the show. I tend to do this each year. You never know who you'll end up meeting at the Starbucks at the convention center over breakfast! I had a very nice chat with one of the new girls over at Runa. Runa makes and wholesales the wonderful Guayusa (why-you-suh) product I reviewed a couple flavors for last fall. It's an exciting tisane I really enjoy. After she had to get to the booth though, I took the chance to chat with a lady sitting behind me. Her name was Sharon Misdea and she's a cultural anthropologist with a concentration on beverage history! How fascinating is that! My mind is still full of all kinds of questions to ask of her. I hope to do an interview to share with everyone here in a month or so!
After the breakfast chats were over, I headed out to the show floor. With the press badges you get in a bit early so I was able to squeeze through just a tad before the doors opened to everyone.
I was able to make a b-line for my friends over at QTrade Teas & Herbs who co-exhibit with my friends at Kopius Teas at the expo. These are some fantastic people who custom blend for all sorts of brands. If you have a chance to check out Infusions of Tea, it's a brand run by Ron Eng and Emilie Yanagi of Kopius Teas and they have some very nice, high quality stuff!
Elmwood Inn across the way was next. They're more 'local' to me, being right across the river in Kentucky so I thought I'd say hello. I had a nice conversation, contemplated snagging a couple books including a beautiful copy of their illustrated version of Okakura Kakuzo's "The Book of Tea," and headed on down the isle.
Next, I made a stop over at Art of Tea. These guys are really some master blenders. Some of their teas are really inventive. Just after the show I'd requested a blend with Kiwi for kicks, and they blended a new Watermelon Kiwi Black Tea I am hoping to review here soon!
I didn't spend a lot of time back in the China part of aisle 3. There was some stuff there which looked and smelled nice, but I had the urge to check out the Taiwan Tea Association booth where a lot of activity seemed to be centered. Here I found the venerable Thomas Shu singing some of his renowned Hakka Tea Songs. These were pretty engaging and fun to learn, though I really don't remember them at the moment (BAD Tea-Guy!). They had a beautiful booth and I took the time to sit in on a presentation on traceability with Taiwanese teas and on a couple cuppings of Taiwanese teas which were both very engaging and fun!
From the Taiwan tea booth, I made my way to a nearby booth from CTC Inc, distributors of the Bret brewing device and of Zealong, the New Zealand Oolong tea introduced at last year's show. I snagged a Brewt unit I'll be pitting against Adagio Teas' ingenuiTEA and Teavana's PerfecTEA Maker II in a couple weeks.
I also made my way to the booth for Royal Tea of Kenya who had some unworldly spectacular orthodox black, green and white teas. What's special about this is that Kenya isn't really known for their quality, primarily their quantity. They're the single largest producer of black teas in the world. Kenya produces more than China and India and Sri Lanka. It's unbelievable. What's great about this is that we're now seeing some really good quality stuff coming from a region which needs the agricultural income and the exposure. I'm very happy to see this quality increase from Kenyan teas, and to see much needed attention on a region which could use it.
A stop over to Octavia Tea yielded some new friends as well. Some of their blends were pretty interesting, and I look forward to reviewing some of them soon.
On the side opposite CTC was the ItoEn booth. ItoEn makes more bottled ices teas than anybody. They literally invented the modern game of bottling teas for consumer consumption. It's a really great story, I hope to transcribe at some point. I've become annual friends with Rona Tison, their VP of marketing for North America over the years. She's pretty fantastic, so if you ever have the chance to say hi, you should do so!
They have some really great new bottled teas out now too. Their Crisp Apple Iced Tea and their Mango Iced Tea taste fantastic! I'm set to receive some samples of ItoEn's loose leaf teas as well and hope to review some of them soon.
An aisle over and further back was The Tao of Tea (Tao is pronounced like dow.) This company has a single premise. Never compromise quality while protecting our people and resources. I am in love with this group and look forward to reviewing some of their teas.
Tao of Tea has a pretty large amount of shelf-space at a local international food market in my area called Jungle Jims. If you're ever in the Cincinnati area, you should really check the place out. They have acres and acres of floorspace inside devoted to foods from around the world!
I dropped by a booth for Harshita Designs, a wonderful Indian fashion designer who often incorporates tea related aspects into her work. Mr. James Norwood Pratt had his mug emblazoned on a poster celebrating some form of anniversary wearing one of the purveyor's ties, so I obviously had to have one as well! I snagged a nice red tie with blue circles encompassing a pretty two-leaves-and-a-bud motif. It's a pretty nice tie actually.
I moved on to the Joyce Chen booth where they had some nice teapots and other paraphernalia.
My friends over at Eastrise Trading Corp. always have great stuff. They're the North American distributor for the Chinese brand called Foojoy. I know and like a number of Foojoy blends and am always impressed with their loose tea quality. Above all else though, I really love chatting with these folks. They're a lot of fun, and I always learn something new.
From Eastrise I moved on to some adventurism! I took a trip to the last aisle and stopped by a neat little booth for a company called Indie Tea. This little brand has some interesting blends. At the show I was a fan of their "Dirty Bird" and "Masquerade" blends. I hope to give them a fair shake with some reviews down the line. India Tea donates a whopping 5% of their sales to charity. We as consumers might not tack that as a lot... but really, it is. It's 1 of every twenty dollars the company doesn't get to use for its own growth. CHeck them out if you can.
The Yedi Houseware booth was colorful and fun looking. I dropped by for a gander, but didn't get to try anything out.
The Yamashiro Busan Company of Japan has a neat product out this year as well. They've developed a cold-brew green tea powder which is actually very good. To brew, you take one of their pouches and insert it into a bottled water (after either draining or drinking a bit.) Then you put the cap back on and shake vigorously for a few moments. All the sudden, you have a fine tasting ices green tea in a bottle! FOr those familiar with the crystal light-to-go- packets, this is similar. However, you're inserting a packet into the bottle, and not dumping a powder in directly. The idea is so new from the company, they don't have a US facing site in English yet.
I hope to give these a review down the line as well.
To finish my day I headed upstairs to a private tasting of the Nepalese teas for this year. Here I met some wonderful industry luminaries such as Bill Waddington of TeaSource and NPR Tea Time fame. I also met Martin Kushner and Chandra Bhushan Subba. The presentation given was very nice. They walked us through the history and culture of the relatively young Nepalese tea industry, some production processes and a tasting of some of their latest productions.
To say they had splendid teas would be benign. To be honest, one of their teas was just okay. Several were pretty good and two were downright spectacular. In particular I was impressed by an extra curled black tea produced by Bushan's factory. For such a young industry, they've matured quite a bit in a very short period of time and are offering teas with a remarkable amount of differentiation in palate texture and flavor profiles on top of visual appeal. This is a country to watch!