Tea and Travel World Tea Expo

See Taste Hear

World Tea Expo 2012


In a year where we saw tea retail grow and take over new ground, it should be interesting to notice subtle developments within the tea community at World Tea Expo. Teaopia in Canada was recently bought out by US chain Teavana which went public with its IPO in July 2011. Montreal-based David’s Tea opened 2 new shops in NYC. Starbucks hired Charles Cain formerly of Adagio Teas, to run their Tazo Tea operation. Wherever you live I’m sure you’ve discovered independent tea retailers sprouting up around your town.

I’m keenly aware of premium tea’s increased popularity around the globe. I notice more twitter followers are “into tea”, “tea obsessed”, etc. So as I pour over the offerings for this 10th year of World Tea Expo I find myself attracted to an entirely new selection of exhibitors and educators. World Tea Media have analyzed the current tea trends and the expo reflects them. The goal is to keep the conference and exhibit floor relevant. The expo has adopted a ‘No Repeat’ policy in celebration of the 10-year anniversary. There are all new courses for the core conference sessions and quite a few new presenters. I’ve noticed both veteran industry exhibitors on the floor and quite a few showing for the first time.

Here is what I’m hoping to cover, see, taste and hear.



Korean ceramic teaware on wooden saucers to minimize the "clatter"

Scholar’s Tea Ceremony: Saturday 11.30am – 12pm. I’ve been reading that there is a “slow movement” in Korea, similar to Europe. It’s a lifestyle movement  but it tends to rotate around tea and specifically the ceremony of tea. I doubt that it is as formal as the Japanese Sencha ceremony, but I will wait to see. I’m particularly primed to see this as I’ll be travelling to Korea in August. I intend to visit several tea gardens. WTE is featuring a Korean “Pavilion” consisting of 5 or 6 growers, so you can bet I’ll be making contact with them.

Stage layout for 2012 Tea Infusion Challenge. More competitors, more judges

Tea Infusion Challenge: Sunday, June 3, 12:00 – 2:30 p.m., Exhibit Hall, Special Events Pavilion. I’m not sure exactly how this year’s challenge will play out seeing as there are 2 more challengers and 2 more judges than last year. The new layout allows for 2 challengers on stage at a time, but only one will be presenting to the judges. When one competitor is clearing away, the next competitor is setting up and being judged. Here’s how the judging goes according to Kim Jage of World Tea Media: “While tea extraction is the most important aspect, competitors will be evaluated on multiple criteria, including specific tea knowledge, technical skills, and successful tea infusion.” it is a more high pressure challenge than last year in that the judges will be focused on only one competitor at a time rather than all at the same time. I’m not convinced that it will work. I wonder if it will become rather repetitive for the judges. I’m not sure I will last as a spectator for 2½ hours!

The intrepid challengers: Charles Dawson,WA; Margaret Harris,PA: Johnathan Munsayac,CA, (back from last year): Tim Smith,NE; Michael Thunder,CO; and Cora Vasseur,IL.  The patient judges: Mo Sardella and Aaron Vick of  G.S. Haly Tea Co.; Suzette Hammond and Josh Kaiser, Rishi Tea;  Eliot Jordan, Peet’s Coffee & Tea; Lydia Kung, Eastrise Trading Corp. Steve Downer, last year’s winner will host.

Harshita tea bud ties available in silk charmeuse


Harshita Ties: The iconic image of 2 leaves and a bud in repeated pattern looks like a new classic. There are about a dozen colours and a few different patterns. Looking forward to seeing them up close. The fall runway collections were showing menswear influences for women,  – I’m just sayin…



1660 from London UK claims to have designed the perfect cups for optimal tea tasting

1660 is an artisan company based in London England. Peter Ting, a ceramicist and Timothy d’Offay, a tea smith have developed 4 uniquely purpose-shaped vessels that claim to provide the optimal tea tasting experience. I think they look lovely, but I plan to put them to the taste test as Jane Pettigrew teams up with the creators early Saturday morning for Taste the Difference – Different Cups for Different Teas.


Blue ocean, blue skies and green tea. Gorreana Estate Azores, Portugal

Gorreana Teas: Although it may seem odd to those of us who only associate tea with China, Africa and South East Asia, it is, I think, fitting that Portugal has the ability to grow tea successfully since they were one of the first European countries to purchase tea from China in the early 1600’s. It was Infanta Catherine di Braganza who introduced the English aristocracy to the delicate infusion in the 1660’s. Gorreana has been producing green and black teas for over 100 years. I’m looking forward to sampling their green on the exhibition floor at booth 732.

Zealong founder Vincent Chen in the fields of New Zealand's "Zealong" tea farms

Zealong Tea: In 1996, Tzu Chen and his son Vincent imported tea seedlings to Waikato, New Zealand from Taiwan. Introduction to the pure New Zealand climate was a success and today they have planted over 50 hectares. The land in the region is flat making it easier to harvest I’m sure. They produce only Oolong, hence the brand’s name. It is expensive at almost $60 per 100 grams. I am hoping that I will have a chance to sample.



Friday, 11am – Understanding Puer Tea    Of all the teas I’ve studied, Puer is still somewhat of a mystery. I don’t quite get what all the fuss is about. I’ve been drinking it for over 25 years and I’m hoping that I will finally break through the resistance that I have to enjoyment of the venerable old soul. Jane Pettigrew and Professor Kanzo Sakata will present 5 Yunnan Puers from a variety of sources and vintages. The presentation will conclude with a performance of the Puer Tea Ceremony by Di Liu.

Sunday 11am  A Step Toward Caffeine and Antioxidant Clarity  – Kevin Gascoyne of Camellia Sinensis in Montreal has commissioned a series of lab tests to determine antioxidant and caffeine levels in a variety of premium teas. He will be presenting the results. Apparently we are in for some surprises!

Other highlights:

I’ll visit HIMCOOP to catch up with developments in the Himalayan tea growing region. I’ve written about them on this site and consequently I’ve had a number of people ask how they can carry Himalayan tea from the Co-op. I intend to get more contact info from them to pass along to readers.

Octavia Tea has a few new teas on offer. Can’t wait to give them a try. Elizabeth Stephano is imaginative with her blending without selling out to the themed tea idea. And of course, I will be looking for her signature artwork on the packaging.

I’m curious about: Taste Science, they examine how we perceive taste – specifically tea.  Vintage TeaWorks (their website is still in development – product launch at WTE) They have created custom tea blends inspired by wine. I’ll have to get back to you on this. Many unknowns….

North American Tea Championship Winners Circle Friday, 12.30pm – 3.30pm. Tasting the top tea winners of North America.

I’m giving Kim Jage, sales and marketing director, World Tea Media, the last word, as she so beautifully describes the Wu-Wo tea ceremony that will take place on June 1, Friday, 5:30 p.m “”The Wu-Wo Tea Ceremony is a humble exchange – where both giving and accepting merge into one. It reminds us that distinctions can never fully define anything and that tea is a catalyst. The beauty of the ceremony lies not only in its intent but also in its practice.”

  • I’ll be reporting LIVE daily from World Tea Expo so please check in!