Friday, June 6, 2014

World Tea Expo Day 2 Eventful Moments

The afternoon of Day 2 of the World Tea Expo started with the annual meeting of the United States League of Tea Growers. Similar in feel to the Hall of Justice, it felt a little bit like being among a set of superheroes. Superhero tea growers, that is. We heard from the leadership on the status of the League, and was asked to get the word out that U.S. Tea Growers are being sought. So, tell your friends, tell your neighbors, spread the word! If you or anyone you know is currently growing any amount of tea, be it a small garden plot or multiple acres, please contact Naomi at and let them know. An exciting foundation of data and best practices is being laid, and your participation in laying that foundation is a history-making opportunity!

Next stop: the lovely Garden Party hosted by Teas Etc. It’s no secret that Teas Etc. is a premier tea retailer whose extensive line of teas is unique and unforgettable.  But what you might not know is that Beth and Newman, the husband and wife duo who built this beautiful tea empire, are what is commonly known as a “hub.” Hang out with either one of these two, and you’ll suddenly find yourself introduced to another person, and another, and another. And it’s not the usual, “Jen, this is Wendy,” kind of introduction. It’s, “Jen, this is Amy of Wonderful Teas, Incorporated. She’s someone you need to know. She’s shares your obsession of Assams.”

Not only do you meet the person, you find out a key connection you already share with the person, and a friendship is born. At a Teas Etc. Party, 1+1 never equals 2. Networks grow exponentially.

Manelle of Capital Teas, Lisa of Chambre de Sucre, Me and Nicole of The Devotea USA

After making 5 new best friends, I made my way to the Tea Bloggers Roundtable. As with every aspect of the World Tea Expo, here was the prime opportunity to experience such a wide variety and approaches to the same endeavor: tea blogging.  My esteemed fellow tea bloggers included: (from left to right) Roundtable moderator Naomi Rosen of Joy's Teaspoon, Nicole Martin of Tea For Me Please, Linda Gaylard of The Tea Stylist, Jason Walker of Walker Tea Review (Finalist for 2014 World Tea Awards Best Tea Blog), Chris Giddings of Tea-Guy, Me, and Gary Robson of Tea With Gary.

The audience represented a wide variety of business and recreation as well. Questions about how to best showcase teas, to the best platform to promote blog posts, to whether or not we recommend promoting the health benefits of tea to how to deal with reviewing teas we don’t like. The approaches were as varied as the bloggers, which the audience appreciated. While there is no absolute one right way to go about tea blogging, there are many lessons learned that benefit the greater blogging community, and that is what this exchange was all about.

And the final event of the night – The World Tea Awards Dinner aboard the Queen Mary.  There were so many fun and fabulous moments, it would be impossible to cover every aspect, so I’ll content myself with highlighting my favorites.  

Upon arriving at the Queen Mary, my husband and I ran were directed to a lovely event on the 2nd floor where we were handed a glass of champagne, parking validation and were entertained by a Groucho Marx impersonator. Another WTE couple was with us - Chris from a tea company outside of Phoenix (help - I lost your information! Comment on this post so I can track you down! We'll always have Groucho) - and we quickly discovered that we were not on the guest list. In fact, we were at the wrong event altogether! So we found or way to the correct floor at the correct event and walked the red carpet into the event. 

Me and my better half, Gene

Once inside, we sat at our table with Josephie Dean Jackson, (who is growing tea in Texas as the founder of The East Texas Tea Company), and the fine folks of Bigelow Tea, The Martin Bauer Group, The Tea Association of Canada, and Shabnum Weber of The Tea Emporium (I think we had the funnest table).

Addi, Shabnum and Louise - Canada is in the HOUSE!

I FINALLY got my photo with Rajiv Lochan and also Elyse Petersen (who was nominated for 2 World Tea Awards this year).

And was lucky enough to snap a great shot (though slightly blurry) of Elyse of Tealet Tea winning award for Best Social Media Reach!

It was a fun evening of recognition and awards hosted by Gail Gastelu, publisher of The Tea House Times and George Jage, president of World Tea Media. The conversation, the exchanging of stories, the celebration of an industry that brings people together made it a night to be remembered. 

When the time came for Best Tea Blog to be announced, I admit I sat there holding my breath in anticipation. And then the announcement, "And the winner of Best Tea Blog is..... World of Tea by Tony Gebely!"

The room erupted in applause, and I wholeheartedly joined in. Tony is a well-known and well-respected self-proclaimed tea-nerd whose mission is to develop a rich Tea Culture in the United States. Every time I read an entry on his blog, I feel smarter. He's an educator at heart, and his passion for tea culture is infectious. 

He was not able to attend the awards dinner, but with good reason. He was away on his honeymoon! So, congratulations, Tony, as you begin your new married life, and congratulations on receiving this special recognition for what you share on your tea blog!

All the winners of the evening:

Best Tea Spirit: James Norwood Pratt, tea author and expert, San Francisco, Calif.

Best Tea Educator: Jane Pettigrew, tea author and consultant, United Kingdom

Best Tea Publication: TeaTime Magazine, Birmingham, Ala.

Best Social Media Reach: Elyse Petersen, founder and CEO of Tealet, Honolulu, Hawaii

Best Tea Room Website: The St. James Tearoom, Albuquerque, N.M.

Best Tea Room Menu: Samovar, San Francisco, Calif.

Best Tea Retail WebsiteAdagio, Clifton, N.J.

Best Tea Blog: World of Tea, Chicago, Ill.

Best Tea Short / Commercial: The Tea Song by Yorkshire Tea, United Kingdom

The final recognition was that of Devan Shah, the creator and owner of International Tea Importers (ITI) and Chado Tea Rooms, who was presented the Cha Jing Lifetime Achievement Award for his significant contributions to the tea industry. 

What a fun day and an exciting evening! This was the first year of the World Tea Awards, and I can tell this is just the start of a new and enduring institution.

As we made our way off of the Queen Mary, I paused for a photo op with "King George" (sans paper crown) who had presided over the evening. 

And with that, the World Tea Expo came to a close - for me, at least. I headed off to a wedding the next day as all my tea friends, old and new, continued the festivities. 

With any luck, I'll see you all again at World Tea Expo 2015!

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