Tea and Travel World Tea Expo

Live From World Tea Expo 2011: Day 1

Friday June 24th

Day 1 on the Exhibit floor

I started my day in the “Tea Break” room. Located near the educational sessions and generously sponsored by Teas Etc. there were several tables of teas to choose from, including the Meyer Lemon that I tasted. They were all carefully pre-measured in unbleached paper tea bags ready to take the water that had also been carefully calculated for temperature. Amazing accuracy considering there were easily over 80 people to refresh!

The day ahead was to be filled with tastings, presentations and panel discussions. I had hoped to spend more time on the exhibit floor, but when you have access to such valuable resources it makes sense to take advantage. I will have time tomorrow and Sunday to visit the exhibiting suppliers and producers.

Today’s Adventures

At Babette Donaldson’s Unique Settings: Not Your Traditional Tea Room we learned that “your unique qualities give you an added dimension and can become the foundation of marketing for your business” Travel to countries of origin brings a personal connection to your customers through your stories of experience.

I barely had time to refresh with another cup of tea before finding my way into Cynthia Gold’s “Making a Final Statement: Tea and Dessert”. The author of Culinary Tea is a Chef and Tea Sommelier at Boston Park Plaza Hotel. Wow what a dream job! We were each presented with a plate of sweet items – some chocolate palettes, dried apricots, a strawberry, spiced whipped cream, caramel and a matcha shortbread cookie. We tasted Lung Ching, Tung Ting Oolong, Pouchong, Darjeeling, Keemun and Pu-erh. With each tasting Cynthia had us identify the predominant qualities of the tea. (this took me back to focused tastings in the Tea Sommelier program at GBC). Cynthia used terms like balance, tease out, contrast, compatibility and bridging flavours. Tea is not to be used in cuisine as a gimmick, she insisted, but to enhance flavours. We ended the session with her Baileys Irish cream Keemun-infused Vodka cocktail. The room became noticeably noisier.

Sweet elements to pair with a variety of teas at Cynthia Gold's "Making a Final Statement: Tea and Dessert"

Exhibit Floor

Down on the floor I had a few moments to visit the Winners Circle for Black Teas from the North American Tea Championship. We were given blue poker chips to put into buckets for our favourite tea. My choice was Rishi Tea’s Earl Grey. This surprised me because for several years I have been underwhelmed by most Earl Grey tea and all it symbolizes to me, but Rishi presented a completely new take on the traditional beverage.

Rishi Tea's North American Tea Championship award winning Earl Grey. I was surprised at how much I like it.

Rishi used a Yunnan black tea as the base. It had enough body to stand up to their remarkable bergamot citrus. This tasted so authentic that I am sure most other Earl Greys I’ve tasted over the years have been stale. The bucket with the most blue chips? Ajiri Tea – a Kenyan CTC that had a rich dark amber liquor with a robust flavour. Sara Holby the owner of the company was thrilled and surprised. Of course all presenters were already winners and happy to have a chance to share their winning black teas in this setting.

Sara Holby of Ajiri tea is thrilled to win Buyer's Choice award for her CTC Kenyan

On my way through one of the show aisles I spotted Esther from GSEP, a Korean company promoting their crystallized teas and “Happy Day Series”, with names such as Grumpy Day Tea – love that one. What really caught my eye though was Esther’s traditional Korean dress.

Esther of GSEP teas of S. Korea in a lovely traditional dress

I loved the Tea Hawaii booth. They brought fresh tea leaves again this year. I’m so impressed to see both the effort they have made to keep the leaves fresh for their display and the beauty of their booth design. Tomorrow I will return to taste some of their teas.

Liam Ball of na liko tea in the beautifully designed Tea Hawaii booth

I had to rush to make it to the panel discussion featuring Japanese Tea Farmers. Not to belabour ongoing negative reports of unsafe levels of tea found in some areas of Japan, but it was good to hear some sane voices including Nigel Melican. Sitting in the audience he had the last word during question period. He had been growing tea in Turkey during the Chernobyl disaster and the contrast with Japan’s problem was dramatic. All agreed that we need some perspective and that while some areas of Japan will be a long time recovering their tea businesses, the vast majority of Japan’s tea is still safe to drink. It will be an advantage for growers who have never had an international presence. Their safe tea will now have a chance for export. I know I won’t stop drinking Sencha.

The LV Monorail has been wonderful. It’s just one short stop to the Hilton where I’m staying and is cool and speedy. Did I mention that the temperatures today were 108F? After recharging phone, camera and human batteries I returned to WTE and headed back down to the floor for a ‘speed read’ of a few stand out booths such as CrafTea Designs and Kitchen T.L.C.

Stunning pinwheel of chocolates at Kitchen T.L.C.
Tea-infused chocolates at Kitchen T.L.C.
Oolong citrus chocolate
Tea Dyed Scarves at CrafTea Designs
Tea Dyed Infinity Shawl worn as a shrug at CrafTea Designs

The day ended with Chuck Underwood’s address about Generational Marketing – A highly informative and insightful key to unlocking the challenges of appealing to a market where for the first time in history, 5 generations co-exist in the same era. Core values are huge influencers of what each generation will find appealing.  He will be zeroing in on Baby Boomers, Gen X and the Millennials in Core Sessions tomorrow and Sunday. Look for more observations in the next posts.

Okay time to shut down. See you tomorrow…