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!

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