World Tea Expo 2011: The Flip Side

Bee House teawares
Bee House teawares

The Summer version of the World Tea Expo was held June 24-26, 2011, in Las Vegas, Nevada USA.

My previous posts (part 1 and part 2) detailed the experiences of a first-time exhibitor at WTE. I also had the opportunity to step out of my booth and walk the aisles, check out all the other booths, view exciting new teas and tea products, and meet with and talk to some of the most knowledgeable people in the tea industry.

Always fascinated with the many ways to prepare tea, I made it a point to visit as many booths displaying tea ware as I could. Amongst my favourites …

In the Asian style, just two booths down from my own was Fuji Merchandise. Teapots and teacups with designs ranging from the traditional to the whimsical exemplified the graceful lines of Japanese tea ware. Bee House and For Life booths displayed rainbows of colourful teapots and cups, in familiar and new styles. 

Europe was represented by Pottery Avenue‘s charming folkloric tea ware from Poland. These folks were also notable for displaying the largest teapot at the Expo — I’m talking waist high! Germany’s Reutter Porcelain booth was always crowded; who could resist the extensive collection of children’s tea sets detailed with fairy tale characters?

On the contemporary side, Yedi Housewares‘ unusual Tea Tower — a stacked tea set — and their popular heart-shaped cups, stood out amongst a profusion of brightly coloured tea ware in their booth. This seemed to be the year of glass, and crystal-clear teapots and cups were everywhere you looked. I particularly liked Northwest Glass Designs glass kyusu and their monogrammed and engraved glass teapots.

Of course there was plenty of tea, offering plenty of opportunity to sample and taste. At a special press-only event, we enjoyed a variety of Nepal teas — a personal favourite — while viewing a presentation on the history and culture of Nepal and its teas.

Highlights of other samplings were the luxurious Japan green teas offered by Tea Farmers Alliance, and the even more exquisite (if it’s possible!) Korean greens from Osulloc (sorry, this site appears to be in Korean only, so enjoy the photos!). Glenburn Estate served up not only excellent Darjeelings, they also showed fragrant tea-infused soaps and lotions, and elegant linens — and I may have to make a trip to India just to visit their gorgeous hotel with its stunning views!

Tasting Nepal teas
Tasting Nepal teas

In the “Most Surprising in a Good Way” category were the teas from Gorreana Tea, gardens that have been located in the Portuguese Azores for over 125 years; and remarkably good teas from Hawaii via Tea Hawaii & Company, a consortium of island growers and processors. They also had tea-infused wines, but unfortunately no samples at the show.

Another leitmotif of this year’s Expo were two tisanes, tulsi and hydrangea, that were on offer at several booths. The hydrangea, which I was assured is not from the common garden plant, was very sweet. The tulsi (or holy basil) had a rather sharp flavour. I appreciated the opportunity to try them, although neither one left a very positive impression. To each their own taste.

While I don’t normally care for tea in pills or powders — I like to drink my tea, and I like it made and served properly — two vendors of these types of specialty products did impress me. Aiya-America, in addition to showing several grades of matcha from high-end to cooking quality, had single-serve packets of lightly-sweetened matcha that can be mixed with water or milk. Not bad if you’re on the go, and a comfortable introduction for matcha “newbies.” I really did not want to like Shinwa’s “Stay Energized” matcha, genmaicha, and sencha tablets, but soon found myself sending colleagues to their booth to pick up a sample themselves when I realized that I was in fact full of energy after munching a couple of the tasty tablets.

Thomas Shu, Devan Shah, and James Norwood Pratt at the ABC Tea booth
Thomas Shu, Devan Shah, and James Norwood Pratt at the ABC Tea booth

A fun-filled program at the ABC Tea exhibit had Thomas Shu quizzing the crowd to identify various objects. And boy he did stump us! The first object turned out to be the biggest, and the most elegant, spittoon any of us had ever seen. Then he showed us a basket with a spire-shaped top. When he opened it we could see that it was a cozy and carrier used by tea pluckers in the field. The top of the basket was inspired by the sun hats worn by the workers. The folks at ABC were also giving out samples of an aged oolong from 1995; I fixed this when I returned home, and it turned out to be a lovely “shape-shifting” tea.

Other obligations kept me from attending most of the seminars and presentations, but I did get to the one that I really wanted to see: Debunking tea myths. If you’re not familiar with the presenter, Nigel Melican, read his profile here at The English Tea Store Blog. Exposing and doing away with myths about tea, and keeping us all honest, is one of Nigel’s personal and professional missions. His speaking style is low-key, on-target, and engaging, and the hour flew by so quickly that we all could have listened for another hour.

Finally, one of the very best things about the Expo is meeting new tea people. This year, my own mission was to meet as many online tea friends as possible, and give voice to their online personae. Amongst the most memorable meetings were with Yoon Hee Kim of Hancha Tea, elegant in her Korean costume; and Dan Robertson of The Tea House/World Tea Tours in his equally elegant costume (Tibetan, I believe). I’ve already started saving up my pennies with an eye to his next tea tour of Japan.

There were many more wonderful moments — and wonderful people — and unfortunately my space is limited. Not to worry, though — there will be lots more memorable moments at next year’s Expo.

Please keep in mind that World Tea Expo is a trade show, and many of the vendors are primarily or solely wholesalers. If you are a consumer interested in products seen at the Expo or on their website, contact them for locations that carry their products.

Editor’s note: Didn’t get to the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas in June? Don’t worry. Another one is scheduled for early September in Philadelphia. See the WTE website for details.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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