Friday, May 30, 2014

World Tea Expo Day 2 Moments

Day 2 started with a run in with some great tea folks - Nicole Schwartz of The Devotea USA, Jason Walker of Walker Tea Review, and Naomi Rosen of Joy's Teaspoon. Then a cup of Green Earl Grey from Teas Etc and it was off to the classes!

First up was 20 Marketing Angles You Might Be Missing, presented by Babette Donaldson, which inspired a page of brainstorming that I look forward to sharing in a future post.

Next, (after picking up a cup of amazing Chocolate Puerh from Teas Etc) it was off to David & Goliath presented by Peter Martino of Capital Teas. 

I'm just going to say it: Peter now ties with Bill Waddington as my favorite tea educator. The generous, practical insights give much food for thought. Key takeaways: educate everyone (staff, customers, yourself) to build your audience and this industry. And know your products. His challenge was for retailers to personally write a one line description for each of your products. If you can't do it, you either have too many products or you don't know them well enough.

Finally, Gail Gastelu, of The Tea House Times, presented Tea Room Survival, which had a room full of new and aspiring tea room owners filling pages of notes with her very practical, actionable survival skills and tools, such as having a very thick skin and being willing to scrub a toilet. And as with many other speakers this week, she advised you must believe in and focus on your own vision. Don't get caught up in or distracted by what someone else is doing.

Then off to the trade show floor where I had a few more run ins and sightings;

And while I'll just have to make you wait to hear who I visited with today, remember that there are still many exciting events today - the US League of Tea Growers, Teas Etc's Garden Party, The Bloggers Roundtable and of course the World Tea Awards.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

World Tea Expo 2014 Day 1 Moments

Tea is in the air in Long Beach, California on this first day of the 2014 World Tea Expo! In fact, it's the first thing that greats you as you enter the Long Beach Convention Center, thanks to the Teas Etc. Daily Tea offering to get everyone up and running for an action-packed of education and networking. (I had the Dragonwell. Twice! So smooth).

The first session I attended was "Current Trends and Future Outlook for Tea," a panel discussion including David Sprinkle, Lynn Dornblaser, and Jonas Feliciano, all directors of international market research companies.

Key takeaways:
- US tea consumers are still in love with their tea bags, with 73% purchasing standard tea bags, 15% purchasing pyramid tea bags and 13% purchasing loose leaf.
- Watch the instant tea powders market and don't underestimate the power of convenience when it comes to tea drinkers. It's a segment that could very well make a strong comeback in a modern format.
- Generation Y and Millenials are more interested in herbals, while "Foodies" are interested in green teas, as well as the herbals. And where Foodies go, pop culture will follow.
- The premium tea market has the strongest outlook for tea drinkers. In the U.S. alone, this is a $40 billion business that has grown over $10 billion since 2008.
- The focus on tea as a healthy beverage, especially for women as a part of their daily beauty regimen, is a huge opportunity. (Enhancing beauty from the inside out.)
- Integrating local ingredients, especially fruits or vegetables, into blends caters to locavores and the desire to have healthy beverage alternatives.

The next session I attended was on Tea and Health presented by Dr. Jeffrey Blumberg.

While I won't attempt to break down the descriptions of molecules or EGCG or why EGCG is even important, the exciting main takeaways for me were:
- Research shows that while green tea tested from the cup shows greater benefits than black teas or oolong teas, once any of those teas are ingested regularly, their benefits look remarkably similar when tested in our body's tissue. So, basically, when our bodies digest tea, regardless of type, the main benefits are there.
- Having said that, there is much more research specifically focused on the positive health benefits of green tea.
- Having said That, one of the most interesting studies Dr. Blumberg presented was the ability of black tea to reduce blood pressure.

The reason this information stood out to me so much is that I have a number of friends and relatives who have been advised to drink green tea for this or that purpose, but they don't like it. So, it's nice to think that in some cases, black tea may be just as effective in providing the benefits they need.

The 3rd and final session of the day was "Success From the Front Lines," which was a panel consisting of David Barenholtz of American Tea Room, Shabnam Weber of Tea Emporium, Julee Rosenoff of Perennial Tea Room, and Emeric Harney of Harney & Sons SoHo

This was, by far, the most interactive education session I've ever attended at World Tea Expo. The packed house had question after question for the panel. Everything from, "How did you overcome your greatest obstacles when opening your tea room?" (Shabnam - Have a healthy arrogance and believe in your vision 100%. David - Be willing to build your business bit by bit. Don't rely on partnerships. Focus on your own vision.) to "How important is marketing?" (Julee - do a little bit every day. Emeric - Social media is a great way to introduce new offerings and engage the customer), to "How do you choose suppliers?" (David - It's the joy of discovery and finding what you think fits in your vision. Shabnam - Create your own blends and put your own stamp on it. Julee - You have to be able to tell your customer what they're tasting and why it's great.), to "What are some of your best promotions?" (Emeric - Introduction to 40 teas. We sell out this class every month, months in advance. Educating your customer is key.)

Lorna Reeves, editor of Tea Time Magazine, did a great job of getting to as many audience questions as possible - not easy when there were dozens of hands raised at any given moment. The panelists were funny, frank, and honest, but the message was clear. Know your own vision. Believe in it completely. Take it step by step and know that the only person you can rely on to see the vision through is you.

Then it was onto the trade show floor where I was delighted to meet Ian Chun, of Yunomi after many years of corresponding about Japanese tea farmers. This is one of the most wonderful things about attending World Tea Expos - putting real, live faces to familiar names!  He was kind enough to introduce me to Tea Master, Michihiko Nishimura of Dobashien Co., Ltd.  Stay tuned for a future blog post devoted entirely to my introduction to their tea!

Tea Master Nishimura, me, Ian Chun
Next was a stop by some of my favorite tea people, Elyse and Michael of Tealet Tea. They have just returned from a whirlwind world tour where they have met and discovered some more new and exciting tea farmers. Their booth is a wall of tea like I've never seen. A solid wall of incredible photos and videos of tea farms and tea farmers. Tealet continues to do their amazing work of "creating a bridge between tea growers and tea drinkers" that would not otherwise exist.

Michael, me and a Wall of Tea
And then, of course, Elyse ensured her team introduced me to a side by side comparison of new and old Sheng Puerh. The difference is remarkable. The new Puerh definitely has an astringent kick, while the old Puerh is smooth and easy.

And last, but not least, I had the absolute pleasure of FINALLY meeting THE Rajiv Lochan. I have heard of his this gentle godfather of Darjeeling for years, and here he was. Live and in-person. We sat and chatted about Darjeeling and the need to document the individual stories of the 89 tea gardens there. The idea intrigues me - imagine the stories that the tea farmers and workers and the gardens themselves would tell.

I was so engrossed in our conversation, I completely forgot to snap a photo, which gives me the perfect excuse to track him down tomorrow and re-make a "Moment."

The Opening Night Reception is winding down this moment, but the networking has only just begun. It's so fun to connect with old friends and have opportunities to make new ones. The tea community, though large and varied, is also small and generous. I look forward to Day 2!

A Moment for Lady Devotea's Birthday

Within a group of fellow tea enthusiasts, which I like to refer to as The Underground Tea Syndicate, there is an Australian gentleman known as “The Devotea.” He and his wife, a.k.a. Lady Devotea, have a wonderful line of teas, one of which is my daughter's absolute favorite (Persian Princess).  While they blend lovely teas, they both also write lovely things, and I was fortunate enough to convince Lady Devotea to provide a guest blog post a little while ago, which was a lovely description of a tea blended in memory of her dear father. 

I had the extremely good fortune to meet these fine folks at the 2013 World Tea Expo, where we enjoyed afternoon tea together. Now I won't say it was the scones at this particular venue that was the cause, but The Devotea has made no bones about the fact that American scones are not up to snuff.   He was kind enough to share a blog post outlining what a scone should truly be and even included the makings of a recipe favored by his lovely wife. I took this recipe (listed in grams and such foreign measurements), tested things a bit, guessed at times and temperatures, and finally arrived at what I believe to be a good representation of what a “proper scone” should be. 

So, in celebration of Lady Devotea's birthday, and also in celebration of her kind, generous and adventurous spirit, here is her recipe. 

Lady Devotea’s Proper Scones
3 cups of self raising flour (or add 1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder to each cup of regular flour)
1 cup of actual proper cream
1 cups of ‘Sprite’ or other fizzy lemony soda
Pinch of salt


Mix together flour, cream, and ‘Sprite’ or other fizzy lemony soda. Add a pinch of salt, form into a sticky dough, rest for 5 minutes (the dough, not you), cut out with a floured glass (or 2 inch fluted cookie cutter) and bake on a tray spread just far enough apart to almost touch when they rise. Bake at 400°F for approximately 15 minutes. Take them out when they almost start to colour (No, that is not a spelling error. It is apparently the “proper” way to spell color. If you’re in Australia.).

Happy birthday, Lady Devotea. May this year bring you many adventures of the most successful kind!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Quintessentially British Moment

It's odd to be in Las Vegas the day before World Tea Expo begins and realize I have to fly home in order to attend. For the first time, World Tea Expo will be taking place practically in my back yard, in Long Beach, CA, rather than Vegas.

But here I am, in town for a client conference (which doesn't start until 3:30), and it's lunch time, so... Tea time!

Surprising though it may be, Las Vegas has a good number of tea venues that are worth seeking out. And while I've visited a few on The Strip over the years, I had heard there was a place worth visiting a little way removed from the hullabaloo. English's Quintessentially British Gastropub is located in Town Center (park near AMC Movie Theater for easiest access), and while it has all that you would hope for in a British gastropub, it also serves "High Tea" from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. Yes, you read that correctly. Tea starts as early as 10:30 a.m. AND you don't need reservations 24 hours in advance! Hallelujah! exclaims the business traveler.

I won't go into whether or not the tea service should be called "High Tea," but I will say that it has everything I would hope for in an afternoon tea service: sandwiches, scones, and sweets.

The menu provides several good options to satisfy your level of tea food cravings...

...with a variety of loose leaf teas from Mighty Leaf. I couldn't help myself. I had to go with English Breakfast. I'm so predictable.

And then the 3-tiered tray arrived, where you work your way from the bottom to the top!

Sandwiches, scones, sweets! The sandwiches were a good mix of traditional (egg salad, cucumber) and unfamiliar (cheese and pickles?), but they were all hearty and satisfying. The scones were lovely, especially with the strawberry preserves and the Devonshire cream. In fact, the first 2 tiers were so rich and filling, it was difficult to tuck into the sweets! But, I made a special effort to eat the little creation on the upper right. While it might not look like much, this was a condensed version of a banana cream pie. My best estimation is a base of graham cracker crumb crust, Devonshire cream infused with banana puree, topped with a banana slice and chocolate. Seriously. Yum.

I really enjoyed seeing the variety of patrons who were there to share a moment. Locals who had chosen this spot, this tradition of tea, as a way to get together and connect. Two friends, one with a brand new baby; a family with two young boys, obviously taking mom out for a special treat; a grandma and her young granddaughter; a group of obviously longtime friends who must get together over tea regularly.

Yes, it's a gastropub in a mall, but you'd never know it while you're there. As it's on the upper level, the view is of the tops of palm trees and the Las Vegas foothills. And the venue itself is sleek and modern without alienating its traditional British roots.

It was fun to venture into a tea experience of the local community, rather than that of a tourist (not that there's anything wrong with that!).

The next time you're in Vegas and need a break from winning a zillion dollars on Blackjack, take a little side trip to Town Center and indulge in a Tea Moment that is Quintessentially British.

To visit English's Quinessentially British for Afternoon (or morning) Tea:

6599 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV, 89119
702 478-8080

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

World Tea Expo Invitation to the Bloggers Roundtable

For those of you attending World Tea Expo this week, be sure to add the Tea Bloggers Roundtable to your agenda! Whether you are a tea retailer who has started or is considering starting a company blog, or you're considering reaching out to tea bloggers to promote your teas, or you are interested in starting a tea-inspired blog for business or pleasure, this is a must-see event!

Learn from some of the industry's most seasoned tea bloggers on tips, tricks and strategies for creating and maintaining a successful tea blog. The audience is encouraged to ask questions and pick the panelists' brains, so be sure to take advantage of this opportunity!

We'll see you at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 30th in room 104B.

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Tea Sampler Moment

This is going to sounds very odd, but one of my greatest joys is packaging up samples of tea. I could do it all day. Carefully scooping out loose tea from a bag or bin and letting it slide out into a tiny sample bag and then sealing all the goodness into that little package. Then placing the label on it and wondering if the recipient will love the tea as much as I did.

So when a friend from the industry (my jobby-job industry, not the tea industry), casually mentioned that he was making a transition from tea to coffee and asked for my opinions and suggestions on where to begin, well, frankly he just didn't know how he had just made my day!

All packaged up and ready to go!

I currently have close to 200 different teas in my tea cupboard (read: pantry), and so deciding what to include in a small sampling is no small feat. Without taking you through the mental gymnastics I performed in order to come up with my choices, let's just cut right to the chase and talk about the final decision:

Black Teas (great for your heart, mind, and even your teeth!):
Irish Breakfast from California Tea and Coffee Brewery - This is my consistent go-to morning cup of tea. It is hand blended by one of the owners, Diane, and it is the strongest, best Irish blend I've met yet. I love it.

Anastasia from American Tea Room - A beautiful introduction to floral-infused black teas. The light hints of floral notes elevates the  Chinese black tea, rather than weighing it down.

Lapsang Souchong from Joseph Wesley Black Tea - This is the tea that changed my mind about Lapsang Souchongs. It has a subtle smokiness without making you feel like you're chewing on a smoldering log. It's complex and lovely.

Green Teas (known for antioxidants and more!)
Duke of Wellington from Mariages Freres - If green teas are a little challenging to acquire a taste for, this is a great first step, being a well balanced blend of black and Chinese green teas.

Moroccan Mint from Whittard of Chelsea - Another great avenue to appreciation of green tea. This is a nice blend with spearmint that keeps things light and fresh.

Teasource Green from Teasource - This is the house green tea blend, using Chinese green tea, which is more earthy and less grassy than Japanese green teas.

Toasted Walnut from DavidsTea - The best possible introduction to Sencha, which is Japanese green tea. The blend with walnut and coconut is absolutely mind-blowing (objectively-speaking).

Oolong Tea (great for your skin, bones and more!)
Milk Oolong from American Tea Room - The first time you taste a milk oolong is a magical moment. How does it taste so creamy without any milk being added? It's a weird and wonderful creation, and this is my personal favorite version.

Rooibos (a caffeine-free African red bush "tea" with a long list of health benefits)
The Liberator from Java Tea Co. - The perfect transition from coffee to tea because this is where chicory, green tea and rooibos come together in an amazing way.

Vanilla Rooibos from Chateau Rouge - A surprisingly satisfying blend that is frankly unexpected.

Lemoncello from American Tea Room - A perfect blend for summer, with lemongrass and marigold.

Yerba Mate (has it's own set of health benefits) -
Mango Chili Mexican Mate - I had to throw this one in just because it's a little crazy. You either love it or hate it. In any case, you've just gotta try it.

So the thought hit me. It's about time for me to clear out my Tea Cupboard (um, pantry), and I'd love to share the wealth. Would anyone be interested in being a recipient of a random sample of teas, probably 10 different teas, and you'd just pay a small flat fee to cover postage? It would enable me to introduce a lot of people to A LOT of different teas from amazing tea companies, and it would allow me to indulge in my guilty pleasure of packaging tea samples. Win-Win!

Comment below if you're interested, and if there is enough interest, I'll set up a way to start sending out packages in the next couple of weeks!

Enjoy, my friend! (You know who you are)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Moment in Le Palais

I'm one of those people who loves France, and particularly Paris, truly, madly and deeply. It's a culture that has perfected the art of subtlety in nearly everything it does. Wine, spirits, perfume, cuisine, fashion - they are able to layer simple flavors, scents, colors, textures in such a way that draws you in and holds you tightly without your ever being aware you've been ensnared.

My first trip to Paris (age 21)
Front row: P and me (yes, I went totally blonde)
Back row: L'Hotel national des Invalides 
I've found French tea, and particularly tea from Palais des Thes, is no different.

It's fair to say that, in general, there are two types of tea that I would consider near-necessities: Assam and Milk Oolong. Assams come in a grand spectrum of single estate leaves to multi-faceted breakfast blends, and I most often love an Assam that shouts from the rooftops rather than whispers its virtues. Assams typically start my day. Milk Oolong, on the other hand, is a relatively new discovery for me. I was first introduced to it about five or six years ago. This is a tea that I would consider my guilty pleasure. When something is particularly difficult or I'm in need of a little TLC, Milk Oolong is typically my equivalent of comfort food. It's not for every day. It's for special occasions.

And so, when I opened a package from Palais des Thes with an Assam and a Milk Oolong enclosed, I felt like I was opening a gift from my best friend who knows me so well.

While I admittedly love my Assams strong and brash, I loved the quiet strength of Assam Bazaloni. Smooth and just the slightest bit peppery, it made its presence known without bulldozing my palate. And the color, a rich and regal red, had such clarity of tone, I can only compare it to listening to that moment when a tenor hits and holds that perfect note - it causes shivers to go up and down your spine.

Again, the tea is a feast for my eyes as well as my tongue. Called Milky Oolong, this tea is sheer luxury. I love reading that this tea was "created by a Chinese community that has been growing tea for decades in the village of Mae Salong in Northern Thailand." I can just imagine the pride and care taken with these leaves.  The scent is a creamy mixture of light honeysuckle and vanilla, and while the creamy nature of the tea is present as you sip, it is delicately in the background, layered with floral notes. Even when you've finished the cup, there's a pleasing essence that lingers with you, so like a Parisienne who walked by a minute ago but you can still detect her signature fragrance.

For those of us who like our teas big and bold, know that French teas truly are more restrained. Savor the nuanced layering of flavors and scents. You, like me, will look at some "old favorites" in a new light and with new appreciation. Vive la difference!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Tea Time in a Pail Moment

A friend under the weather. A kitchen full of ingredients. There's only one thing to do. Pack a hamper (or in this case, a pail) of tea things and deliver it to her door step.

I remember a commercial from several years ago, where a man says in a silly voice, "You know you have to Feed a cold!" I quite agree. A couple of tea sandwiches, a packet of scones, a sample of tea I'm sure she'll enjoy (Cherry Blossom Rose Green Tea from Capital Teas - Once she feels better, she can infuse some white wine with it too!), and, of course, some cookies (also known as chocolate biscuits to our British and Australian friends).

With Mother's Day just days away, sometimes it's nice to remember that just because we're grown up doesn't mean we don't crave a little mothering now and then. Who in your life could use a little TLC?

Planning a Mother's Day Tea Party? My new e-book, A Mother's Day Tea Recipe Moment, is now available in the Tea for$2 Series. You'll find recipes for Salad, Sandwiches, Scones and Sips (a.k.a. the best teas for your tea party).

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