Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A World Tea Expo 2015 Moment - Day 1

I walk into the Long Beach Convention Center for the 2015 World Tea Expo, and who do I see?

It's like I surprised myself with this photo.
My smile was either coming or going.
I swear I'm happy to see them! #SelfieFail
The men of the tea blogging world: (from left to right) Geoffrey Norman - a.k.a. @Lazy_Literatus, Tony Gebely - a.k.a. +World of Tea, Gary Robson - a.k.a. @TeaWithGary, and @ChrisGiddings!

It didn't take long for Jo Johnson, a.k.a. +scandalous tea to find us too.

Photo by Gary Robson
My first stop was The Healing Power of Tea: Ancient Roots, Scientific Branches, presented by Ken Cohen of Qigong Research and Practice Center. An entertaining presenter, Ken was able to bring the Ben Cao Gang Mu: the Roots and Herbal Compendium (the 16th century Chinese herbal medicine classic) to life, connecting the dots between old world wisdom and modern day medicine.

Ken Cohen
I also stopped in at Design Your Success... Strategic Store Layout, Visual Merchandising and Web Site Advice. I was instantly captivated by the 3 presenters. Ellen Leaf-Moore, owner of Fezziwig's Marketplace, spoke both animatedly and convincingly on the topic of training: ensuring your employees know the products, where they are from, how they are used, other possible uses, etc. Chris Coccagna, owner of T-we, focused on the importance of your own unique spin. Interior designers and website designers are great, but you can easily lose what makes you stand out by becoming just another 'design.' Victoria Boyert, owner of Satori Tea Bar, echoed that sentiment and made the point that it's fine to fail - that's part of growing. It's just important to bounce back quickly. She gave the example of making some major changes in decor and layout when she realized patrons were more drawn to holding parties there. But she also held onto those unique features that she loves and knows sets her apart. One universal lesson learned by all - invest in good lighting! It not only helps with creating the right ambiance, the right light highlights your products, while the wrong lighting can be a headache to even change when a light bulb burns out.

Ellen Leaf-Moore, Victoria Boyert, and Chris Coccagna
Then it was my turn! My first time presenting at the World Tea Expo! Our session: Amplifying Your Business Voice Through Tea Bloggers. I was so proud to sit on this panel with Jo Johnson (Scandalous Tea), Nicole Martin (Tea For Me Please) and Geoffrey Norman (Steep Stories of the Lazy Literatus)! We talked about the 4 R's of working with bloggers (Research, Review, Reach out and Requirements), as well as some Do's and Don't's. Do contact us personally and give us some interesting information about the tea you'd like us to review. Don't call us by the wrong name, bribe us or harass us if we don't write a review fast enough to your liking. We gave information about getting to know the community of Tea Bloggers - including attending tomorrow's (Thursday) 3rd Annual Tea Blogger's Roundtable at 2:30 p.m. We also announced the release of the 2015 Tea Blogger Directory, listing 45 tea bloggers and best practices for collaborating with them.

Nicole, Geoff, Jo, and Me - I remembered to smile this time!
(Photo by Nicole Schwartz)
Next, it was off to the trade show floor, where I was introduced to Charity Chalmers, founder and owner of Chariteas in Sandy, Oregon. While I understand she makes a mean tea sammich, she also provides some amazing teas. I was able to taste her offering of Grey Dragon (which I need to explore further!) and let's just say that I am an insta-fan!

Charity of Chariteas! (Booth 1428)
From there, I bumped into one of my favorite Tea People, Beth of Teas Etc. I always say that Beth is a hub. She knows everyone and loves to connect people. Within 1 minute of being in her booth, I had run into 3 old friends, someone I had met in her booth last year and had been trying to track down since, AND met a couple who is opening a new tea room in South Orange County in less than 2 months! 

Teas Etc. (Booth 901)
World Tea Expo is always a place to discover new up and comers in the Tea World, and I was very happy to meet the guys of SERR Holding Co., who are introducing Teh Bendera from Indonesia to the U.S. The Bendera Basic, a simple black tea, was bold, brisk, with just a hint of vanilla in the finish. I look forward to learning more about their teas!

SERR Holding Co. (Booth 1437)
One of my favorite parts of being at World Tea Expo is seeing old friends and catching up as quickly as possible in 10 minutes or less. I was thrilled to bump into Kim McHugh, of McHugh Tea in Bellaire, Texas! We both talked as fast as we could, asking about business, tea, family, and the pace of life, and then I let her know I would be out there soon! (I've been dreaming about her mom's cucumber sandwiches!)
So great to see you, Kim!
My last stop was at Libre Tea to say hello to Wendy and let her know I was sipping frommy very own Libre Tea mug just yesterday! I was so wonderful to see her new designs on display, since the last time I saw her I remember the design concepts were just being finalized. Seeing my friends succeed in their business just feeds my soul!

Wendy of Libre Tea! (Booth 1419)
On my way out the door, I got to have a nice chat with Phil Holmans of World Tea House based in Halifax, NS, Canada. He just opened his second location, and it was so fun to hear of that growth, not only in business, but in his company's reputation as being a great place to work, to discover tea and to  hang out in an inclusive environment. I missed my photo op with him today, but the moment was a good one.

I look forward to seeing more old friends on Thursday and meeting new ones. Enjoy your night, Tea Enthusiasts! (I expect a full report from the Tealet House in the morning!)