World Tea Expo 2021 was unlike any of the previous nineteen. And that’s putting it mildly. Last minute adjustments challenged everyone to “pivot” aggressively with the basic logistics. And the new partnership felt like a jarring change in the basic nature of of Specialty Tea. Many of us who have been involved with Specialty Tea and with WTE for the last almost-twenty-years struggled with the idea of sharing a space within a much larger show for the Nightclub and Bar Industry.

So what did you think of Expo this year?

I’m not exaggerating to say that there have been dozens of calls asking what it was like. Most of them were hoping to hear that their doom-and-gloom predictions had come true.

  • That our little pavilion space would be lost in the razzle-dazzle of the bar show.
  • That there wouldn’t be as many vendors willing to exhibit.
  • That there wouldn’t be as many attendees coming to the show.
  • That international businesses wouldn’t be able to travel. Or wouldn’t want to.

Yes. It was a relatively quiet section of the show floor, and smaller than any previous show. But to focus on that would be to miss a bigger picture. While some of you loyal T Ching readers may be wondering why an article about WTE matters to you as a consumer. Consider that the diversity and value that tea businesses are able to share with you comes largely from this one and only tea trade event in the U.S. The success of many businesses began by meeting mentors here over the last 19 years. In this case, what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas. 

What blew me away at World Tea Expo 2021

There were a few things that stood out to me about this show. The first is difficult to put into words without sounding overly emotional. It was an unexpectedly emotional experience. Standing in our Specialty Tea pavillion of  the Expo show floor, the experience of seeing old friends and familiar faces was greater than it had ever been. We gathered like survivors with stories to share. Personal and business. 

And many of these stories were about how their businesses had grown during the pandemic. Sales had grown. Relationships with customers had changed, of course. And we developed new communication skills.  Some products did better than others. Some of the old assumptions about how to sell tea relaxed. Conversations about “going back to normal” were tempered with exitement of how we will hybridize our new tech skills. 

I was blown away by some of the new businesses.

It’s always exciting to new faces. To discover new tea businesses and to hear the dreams and passions that inpired them. In this cozier marketplace, these new businesses seemed to shine a bit brighter. We had more time to hear their stories as we sampled their products. 

I was blown away by new Expo events.

Two new innovations provided opportunities for businesses. One was a Tea Bar (review schedule) that seemed to be constantly crowded with sippers. Another was Tea Tycoon Winners who competed with other new businesses in a “Shark Tank” style competition, earning a vendor booth in Vegas. (Read the World Tea News article about winning Tea Tycoons.)

Finally, I was blown away by the potential for next year.

And I’m still chiding myself for being one of the skeptics about the possibilities for this year’s show. With 2022 marking the 20th year of World Tea Expo, giving us many reasons to celebrate, it’s important that we have a venue that allows us to expand and inspires us to grow beyond the old tried-and-true. It’s fair to say that World Tea Expo 2021 was a test of some very new waters.

And now we can finally get excited about celebrating 20 years of Specialty Tea. We can look back at how we’ve grown. We can celebrate all the people who made it possible. And we can look ahead at having survived some challenges and changes.

I was blown away by walking the floor of a much different kind of show but still totally able to imagine an over-the-top twenty-year celebration. Recalling the stories we should tell from Expos past. Warming up our bragging rights to saying that T Ching has been a part of this from the very early days and a winner of one of the Best Of  . . . Awards as a top tea blog.  It’s now time to throw down the gauntlet and say that 2022 is time for T Ching to be again be a contender.

Hope to see everyone again next year!