June 28, 2018 at 12:00 pm #3758Hula ConsultingTea Lover
WHAT YOU MAY HAVE MISSED AT WORLD TEA EXPO 2018
By: Scott Svihula, Founder of Hula Consulting
This year’s World Tea Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada (June 10-14) was one to remember. My trip to Expo began early as I was leading the World Tea Academy Live – Certified Tea Craftsman event on the 2 days before the Expo began. Though the World Tea Academy endorsed live classes have been traveling the US teaching in major cities for the past year and half, this event had the highest attendance. My training partners Firedancer Coffee Consultants and myself were very pleased to see the excitement and response of students as we explored this intermediate level training seminar. In this 2-day event, attendees explored production processes, tea history and culture, herbal introduction, learned how to evaluate liquid flavoring by creating their own flavored tea, and learned how to properly blend teas and herbs to create their own blended tea. (For information on this seminar, coming to a city near you or for more information on our corporate program, visit – http://www.TeaEducator.com)
The first day of the Expo turned out to be a fun and exciting one. Though the aisles seemed less full and attendance seemed light, in talking with exhibitors, the quality of attendees was better than previous years. Several wholesale suppliers mentioned they were writing orders on the show floor for many new, and current customers. Foodservice focused exhibitors mentioned that they had better, and more qualified foodservice leads than ever before. What was great about the traffic and flow is that it allowed for more meaningful conversations and more one-on-one time with potential buyers. For me, I would always rather have more quality leads than quantity of leads. (Note: Actual attendee numbers have not been published. The above perspective was based on personal experience from past shows and conversations with several key exhibitors.)
The first day of the Expo was also the first day of the Core Conference Seminars. This year’s line up was the best I have EVER seen since the inception of Take Me 2 Tea, which started many, many years ago. The first day had some key seminars that attendees were raving about afterwards:
- Heather Agosta, Jasmine Pearl Tea Co. – How to Launch a Custom Blending and Private Labeling Program
- Kevin Gascoyne, Camellia Sinensis – Tea and Terrior: The Effects of Growing Environment
- Jolyda Swaim Esq., Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC – Tea and Food Safety Modernization Act
- Hannah Crum, Kombucha Kamp – An Introduction to Kombucha Brewing and Expanding Marketplace
- Ravi Pillai, David’s Tea – Tea Blending: Inspired By the Elements in Quality Control, the Process Streamlined from Trader to Consumer
Walking the show on the first day was a delight. There was a combination of exhibitors that offered something for every tea professional. First, there were the companies you look forward to meeting year after year to see what’s new and what’s trending. Examples included:
- East Indies Tea Company
- Florapharm Tea USA
- Harney & Sons tea Co
- Walter’s Bay
- International Tea Importers
- DMH Ingredients
- Elm Wood Inn Fine Teas
- Metropolitan Tea Company
Then there were companies, that have exhibited in past years, that I was excited to see exhibiting again:
- S. Haly Company Inc
- Organic India USA
- Sungarden Tea
Finally, there were exhibitors that were new to the Expo that offered some exciting new products:
- Bee Seasonal LLC
- Bitaco Unique Colombian Tea
- Flavor Waves
- Royal Tea New York
I was pleased to see a nice delegation from South Korea represented. South Korean teas, though relatively new to the US market, offer some of the best teas and tea related products. I was fortunate enough to host a dinner sponsored by this delegation of South Korean Growers and Government Officials. If you haven’t tried South Korean teas yet, please let me know and I would be happy to send you samples of their amazing green, white, black, and oolong teas, as well as, their EXCEPTIONAL tea chocolates.
Day one concluded with the World Tea Awards & Opening Cocktail Reception. This year’s venue for this event was the event stage on the show floor. This event has greatly improved over the years and I was happy to see the changes and evolution of this event. Though it is still somewhat of a mystery on how people are nominated for these awards, this year’s winners all earned awards for their contribution to the industry. I would like to congratulate all the winners. Those of special note:
- Best Consumer-Oriented Tea Marketing Campaign/Promotion: International Tea Sippers Society – Sip for Peace (of which Hula Consulting is a proud member)
- Best Tea Brewing Device (Non-Electric): Mountain Tea tumbler by The Tea Spot
- Best Retail Tea Shop, Cafe, Bar &Best E-Commerce Tea Website: Camellia Sinensis
- Best Tea Educator: Suzette Hammond – Being Tea
- John Harney Lifetime Achievement Award: Nigel Melican
The second day was just as exciting as the first. Personally, my day started out extremely early as I prepared for my Skill Building seminar on Scenting, Blending and Flavoring. This oversold seminar saw the first ever “Badge Police” checking people’s badges for payment, as several attendees wanted to sneak in to attend this meaningful skill building seminar after it was sold out. I thank everyone for their enthusiasm for the seminar and can only say that for those who were not able to attend, please check out the Certified Tea Craftsman Course – which is endorsed by the World Tea Academy – http://www.TeaEductor.com – day two of level 2 includes what was reviewed in this skill building seminar. Once we knew we had the right attendees, off we went exploring the world of scented, flavored, and blended teas. This seminar had two other firsts for me. At the end of the seminar, several students came up and hugged me. Not sure if they were relieved the seminar was over, since I poured on the information during the 4 hours, or if they were happy to finally learn how to successfully create their own teas. I hope it was the latter! After each student creates their own blend I go around and discuss their creation one-on-one and talk about their thoughts of the taste and how they could improve upon it once they go back to their office. During this one-on-one cupping, I came across a tea from one attendee that was amazing. It was a simple blend of ginger, cinnamon, and peppermint, but the taste profile and complexity was out of this world. It was the first time teaching this seminar in 4 years, that an attendee created a tea in the seminar that was ready for sale and one that I would have purchased on the spot. To that student I say, “Well done!”
The second day also had some other key seminars of note:
- Day 1 of 2 for Tea Processing – A Hands on Experiential Lab taught by Bill Waddington (TeaSource), Donna Fellman (WTA), Nigel Melican (Teacraft Ltd.), and Suzette Hammond (Being Tea)
- David Weinstein Esq – Real World Tips for Enhancing Overlooked Tea Business Trademarks and Copyrightable Content and Avoiding Lawsuits
On the event stage, the long awaited new book from Jane Pettigrew – “World of Tea” was officially released. I was lucky enough to get a signed copy for my library. Her book was one of the first things I reviewed upon returning home. Within the first 30 pages I found myself saying OMG and Ahhh no less than nine times. I am so excited to review this book fully. I strongly recommend EVERY tea professional purchase this book – you will not be disappointed! A very modest investment for the wealth of knowledge contained within its pages!!!!
However, the second day ended somewhat on a sour note. The Networking Cocktail Reception again for the second year in a row was very poorly organized. Having only one bar for all to queue, and minimal finger foods, saw many attendees and exhibitors skipping it entirely. Which is a HUGE shame. This event used to be the star attraction of the Expo. A time for all to mingle, tell stories, share experiences, meet new people, and see old friends (you know the ones you see once a year, but it seems like you are life long friends). In the past, this event was held in awesome locations, had fun interactive experiences, and music. Every year I hear attendees complaining about this event. Hopefully the tradeshow organizers will bring this event back to what it used to be. This year I found myself not wanting to wait in an hour-long line for a drink and walked back to my hotel, the Renaissance. To my surprise, many of the attendees felt the way I did and there was a network type reception happening in the lobby and bar of the hotel. Here’s hoping that next year is better!
The third and final day of the Expo came way too soon. This final day also had some additional key seminars of note:
- Virginia Utermohlen Lovelace – Learn to Pair Teas and Build Menus from Scratch
- Day 2 of 2 for Tea Processing – A Hands on Experiential Lab taught by Bill Waddington (TeaSource), Donna Fellman (WTA), Nigel Melican (Teacraft Ltd.), and Suzette Hammond (Being Tea)
However, not all seminars hit the mark. There were a few, noted in interviews with attendees, that might have missed it completely. The seminar on the chemical analysis of tea, spent way too much time talking about scientific theory, which we all learned in high school. Then went on to debunk the myth about decaffeinating your tea with a short infusion – which if you spent 5 minutes in the industry, you would know was hogwash. Another was the foodservice discussion panel, where to the surprise of all, a panelist said that there was no need to sell quality specialty tea to restaurants, just sell them commodity style tea bags; which of course goes against everything we as an industry are doing. Yet another, was the CBD seminar which everyone was extremely excited to attend. Though the information was not wrong, and everything said was correct; it was more of an overview of CBD and its history and legalization. I guess if you didn’t know this information it was beneficial, but easy enough to find online with a simple search. What we were all hoping for was an explanation of how we could utilize CBD in our teas to capitalize on this growing market. A discussion on dosages, how to blend, how to label, etc. is what most attendees were looking for. I encourage ALL to download the World Tea Expo app on your phones, click on each seminar your attended in the education section and take 3 minutes to fill out the survey for each seminar. It is only with this feedback that the core conference improves year over year.
The third and final day is always sad for me. Getting together with tea professionals who share my passion for the industry is like a drug. Then on the last day you find yourself saying more good byes, and see you next years, than working. Suddenly, the lights go out and you’re left with the reality that it’s over. You pack your bags and head home and continue to grind it out until next year’s pick me up. Here’s to next year! May it be bigger and better as we push forward and grow the beverage we have all come to love! See you all in Vegas in June of 2019!!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Informa, or World Tea Expo. Thoughts expressed in this article are based on attending this expo every year since its inception, and interviewing attendees and exhibitors.
Scott Svihula is a tea expert and founder of Orlando, Fla.- based Hula Consulting, an independent tea consultancy specializing in regulatory compliance, certification support, blend development, and product sourcing. To learn more about Svihula’s business, visit http://www.HulaConsulting.com.
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