For three days last month, the Las Vegas Convention Center smelled like home – if you work at a loose-leaf tea company, that is. It made me smile to walk into the huge exhibition hall and have the vague sensory reminder that made me feel I was walking into our offices and warehouse in Boulder, Colorado. It also felt like a homecoming for us because the World Tea Expo is the only venue worldwide where we can come face to face with many of our colleagues and customers in the tea industry. The tone of this upbeat, convivial, and aromatic get-together is set by the founders and owners of the Expo, George and Kim Jage, who manage hundreds of competing and collaborating businesses on what’s the biggest weekend of the year for many of us, with the utmost professionalism, grace, and warmth. So it’s no surprise that it feels like coming home. As my colleague, Bo Olson, wrote in his wrap-up of the Expo, “I think we were all reminded of how lucky we are to be working in the tea industry, where nearly everyone we do business with is a friend.” It was wonderful to put faces to many of the new names of our customers and friends in the industry.
Michelle Rabin and Erika Cilengir of T Ching orchestrated a get-together for us T Ching bloggers, which I very much appreciated, complete with a wonderful tea tasting arranged by Dan Robertson, featuring teas provided by the Glenburn Tea Estate. At the end of a long Expo day, we met in a comfy bar-lounge and exchanged stories and aspirations for what we’re hoping to bring to the tea industry, even accented with silly tea puns, probably due to collective exhaustion – “leaf it alone,” “drink it all in,” and “let it steep in.” There’s such good synergy that comes from meeting with your industry peers, and for me personally, I get tremendous inspiration from meeting with fellow entrepreneurs. At this gathering, we were not only all business owners – it was clear there was a lot of like-mindedness in how we hoped to see the U.S. premium tea industry and health habits evolve. I’ve felt the support of the virtual T Ching community since I started blogging there several years ago, but this was the first time I actually had the chance to meet the smart and energetic ladies behind it all – and they carried that support throughout the Expo, cheering us on toward our goals and little victories.
The 2011 World Tea Expo provided us with an excellent chance to premiere two new products. The Mod Teapot, in stunning new colors, will be out later this summer, and was received quite well by those who stopped by and saw it at our booth. Not only is it a gorgeous and sturdy stoneware ceramic teapot, but it’s got a full-size infuser (about 80% of the teapot’s volume). If you know The Tea Spot well, you know we’re all about large-volume infusers and giving tea leaves all the room they need to expand to their full flavor and aroma potential. This pot is no exception to that. Our second exciting release was the Brewlux, which we’re distributing exclusively. This one’s a large-volume infuser designed for to-go tea service in coffee and tea shops. What’s more, the Brewlux loose tea filter is completely biodegradable, made from U.S.-grown corn, and produced locally here in Colorado. So if you’re a tea lover, those cool compostable to-go cups you’ve been seeing around now have a new best friend.
Sharing in the show successes and spending some time away from the office with my co-workers turned me from a Vegas-hater to a Vegas-lover. I still haven’t gambled (!), but we enjoyed some tremendous window shopping and plates and sips of things other than tea outside the convention center. When I asked Bo, a first-timer at the World Tea Expo, what he thought of the experience, his answer was: “Of course I loved it – where else in America can you try three Gyokuro green teas from different estates, brewed for you by the people who farmed it themselves?”