Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My World Tea Expo 2009

On Saturday, May 2nd, I arrived at the Mandalay Bay (in Las Vegas, NV) at 7:30 am. I walked past many expensive restaurants and provocative sculptures until I found my destination: the World Tea Expo (North America's largest trade show devoted entirely to the tea industry).

After I picked up my swag bag at the registration desk, I brewed myself a small cup of black tea from a tea station in the hallway. Then I made my way over to a large meeting room to attend my first seminar, entitled "2009 Tea Trends Report," which was presented by Lynn Dornblaser of Mintel International. Her market research confirms tea's continued growth and even suggests that tea is nearly recession-proof because it (among many other things) "offers escape from worries" and "it’s a small indulgence that is easily affordable." Lynn reminded us of the importance of trust and value. She also suggested a trend towards more environmentally-friendly packaging and organic teas. Beyond reporting market trends, Lynn's presentation provided many useful statistics and some suggestions for coming up with new products. I wasn't particularly surprised by any of the tea trends, but they were still nice to hear.

Afterwards, I made my way to a focused tasting of Korea green teas presented by Yoon Hee Kim. My colleague Alan from Teacup was also in attendance, as was my former-high-school-science-teacher-turned-tea-friend, Greta. We all greatly enjoyed this wonderful tasting of five Korean green teas and one Korean oolong. I will post my tasting notes in a couple of days.

After the tasting, I met my boss Elisabeth for a first walk through the exhibition hall. We spoke with some of Teacup's important vendors and discussed Teacup business.

Then I met up with my good friend Arthur, who had come up from Santa Fe with his dog Alex to attend the Expo. Alex is a service dog in training, so she was able to enter the exhibition hall with us. But first, lunch... I was so glad I packed a sandwich because a meal in a Las Vegas hotel starts at $20 and can go as high as $50 (plus there are hardly any decent vegetarian options).

After lunch, Arthur, Alex and I spent a nice afternoon sampling many fine teas. We sat in on a presentation on Taiwan tea tours by Thomas Shu, which was very entertaining. He even serenaded us with his rendition of a traditional tea plucker's song. We also drank a lot of delicious Japanese teas including sencha from Sara's Tea Caddie and matcha from Aoi and Do Matcha.

The next day began with a much anticipated Puer Tea tasting presented by Guang Lee of Hou De Asian Arts. I will provide my tasting notes of the five awesome puer teas he served us in an upcoming post. (Spoiler Alert: I left this tasting feeling comfortably buzzed with a nice tingle in my finger tips.)

After the tasting I had an hour to kill before the exhibition hall opened up so I went down to play some blackjack. I won $75, which I later used to buy a beautiful tea travel set ($40) and to fill up my father-in-law's gas tank ($35).

This is my awesome new tea travel set:

It all fits in there perfectly!

A gaibei, a decanter and six little cups!

Back at the Expo, I focused on making connections. I met with many people and was able to promote Teacup, BDTB, and my blog. In the afternoon I stopped to watch a presentation by Aoi on matcha production, and a "tea cocktail" competition. I also discovered some new teas and practiced my Mandarin. All in all, it was a productive and educational experience.

Alex, Arthur and I:

Arthur and I at a Taiwan Tea Presentation by Thomas Shu:

My friend Greta and I outside the exhibit hall:


vovo said...

thanks for the post, brett! i was meaning to ask you what you about the expo :)

this also reminds me to ask you about korean tea. i grew up drinking barley and roasted corn tea and a few other tisanes (as did my parents), but all the green teas were japanese or chinese. is tea production in korea a newer thing?

i've asked my mom about korean tea tradition and have done a little research, but all the info is vague -that it is less formal and takes a more "natural approach" to drinking. do you have the 411?

TP said...

Sorry we missed each other at the expo! Glad to hear you had a great time. I got totally buzzed on all of the tea samples, but walking the floor takes so much energy, it was nice to have a constant supply of yummy teas to try.