The adventures began at The World Tea Expo started early on Tuesday, June 13th with classes starting as early as 8:30am. I headed toward the convention center and noticed the fabulous Jane Pettigrew from her profile as she stood in the Starbucks line in our hotels lobby. She spoke of the tea she had in her room as I had not yet had tea or coffee and being from Seattle, I needed coffee first. And of course Starbucks is there wherever I go.
The first class started with my personal favorite and probably the biggest celebrity in the world of tea, Mr. James Norwood Pratt. He started with tea being a divine liquid sunshine from God. He romanced us with terminology that is used commonly to describe wine. Announced that the universal language of tea is "mmm". And that tea is for sharing, not for money. He reminded us that tea has truly chosen us, we have not chosen tea. However, we are all truly snobs.
The next class I attended was around using tea and herbs as wellness ingredients which my teas already do have some of those attributes depending on which blend you are using. Such as Rosey Blues for depression and anxiety (speaking from personal experience and not an actual health claim that it will treat those things because then I make it a drug and I can't say that according to certain government associations). And Licorice Mint (also not a drug but used ingredients I find soothing because peppermint is said to be known to help with headaches, licorice root helps soothe a sore throat, and rose hips are packed with vitamin C). Maria Uspenski from The Tea Spot (where I get my limited edition steeping mugs). Maria told us about her newest book Cancer Hates Tea. This is where I first noticed the word Terrior, a word I noticed a lot after Maria said it.
Class number three was with Elyse Peterson of Tealet, a company I learned about 2 years ago and admire a lot for Elyse pulled out some girl scout moves seeing that there was an issue with small tea farms trading their tea when they were from places that didn't have easy trade because their currency isn't traded or favored. Amazing. Elyse and Lola Zhao, a true tea sommelier from Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino in Vegas, discussed the next big thing in the food service industry, the tea service. They explained how Lucky Dragon is the first Casino in Las Vegas to provide this high end luxury tea service and that the best day to go is on Tuesdays when they have a discount.
Dan Bolton finished out the day of classes with discussing the direction of the tea industry and pointed out that bottled tea is the consistent winner and most commonly with Americans is peach flavored iced tea. He said we should expect to see Teavana shops in the major malls to start disappearing as Starbucks has realize people will spend more money on bottled teas in convenient stores than on the merchandise in the malls. And that rings true for a lot of retail chains in major shopping malls across America.
I walked by the entrance of the Expo that was scheduled to open at 4pm with Chinese dragons at the entrance prepared to start the Expo. I missed the dragons as I was on the hunt for food. When I returned to the Exhibition Floor I immediately found myself in Norwood Pratt's at the massive booth for International Tea Importers which since 2007 I have come to enjoy hearing him talk about tea, tasting the beautiful teas he offers, and discussing with him the thoughts about the teas along side Sanjay Guha. Everyone in the booth was fitted with a shirt that read "Tea is the beverage of choice of the informed".
Next I stopped by a Japanese tea seller. All of the Japanese booths are situated so that you are accommodated, usually with seating. They were performing a tea ceremony. I stopped to take a video. As soon as I put the phone down they offered me the bowl of Matcha that this adorable Japanese woman just made. I drank of it and felt terrible when I declined their offer to sit with them but the day was short. I promised to return the following day.
Day 2 started with a shorter list of classes, mostly around marketing and hosted by people I hadn't met before. I learned what I already know about how Americans like to drink fruity black teas and herbal blends the most. But the final class of the day was with Tony Tellin of Steven Smith Teamaker. He gave a brief history of who Steven Smith was and then amazed me with his talk of Nitro Chai and Tea Affogatos. I think he was the most inspiring of all of the speakers, other than Norwood of course.
Back onto the Expo floor I went back to International Tea Importers to hear them talk about the newly released Purple tea. Grown at 8000 feet above sea level in Africa it is the only tea that is naturally grown with a purple color because of it's proximity to the sun or something scientific. It is said to have the most antioxidants and lowest caffeine content. It ha a very distinct flavor and tasted lighter than a Darjeeling.
The day was finished with the awards ceremony where Norwood presented Rona Tison, VP of Ito En with the John Harney Lifetime Achievement Award. And she deserves it. Rona is always a pleasure to hold a conversation with.
The final day was filled with conference classes about legalities and expectations of the FDA and USDA. Once back out on the Expo floor I tried to finish up hitting all the booths I had not yet been to. Hibiscus bottled teas were everywhere and a few other interesting new herbs I had not yet come across before. All from other countries of course. And I got one final chat with Silvia Rettore of Dethlefsen & Balk because their teas just draw me in every time. She loaded me up with samples that I stuffed into a bag that had samples of teas from all over the world.
I made minimal purchases while at the World Tea Expo. First with a book signed by Jane Pettigrew and Bruce Richardson who introduced me to Doug Livingston of the Northwest Tea Festival which I have not yet participated in. And dispensers from Zoirushi who one the award for Best Tea Accessory.
I saw a lot of familiar faces, met new people, and learned so much. Definitely looking forward to returning in 2018.