Reflections from the World Tea Expo
After spending over a decade in solar energy, including attending several conferences each year, attending the World Tea Expo was a breath of fresh air. Being at the Las Vegas Convention Center for something that wasn't a solar conference was a weird experience at first, but I was grateful for having done a few other "rodeos" before so I was comfortable navigating.
I was immediately welcomed by the community of tea bloggers, an inviting and joyful group of teaheads from all over the US. Their reception was so genuine. We shared the love of tea and no one was jockeying to stratify themselves above anyone else. Everyone wanted to learn from everyone. No one was jealously guarding territory. I wanted to weep with joy. For years in my professional life, I had felt like I was constantly justifying the space I was attempting to occupy. In tea, I just was. I didn't have to flash a pedigree of famous brands on my resume or brag about my battle wounds or years of service in an attempt to be heard. Tea people, from the outset, are good people.
The attendees were so diverse that no one even needed to call it out. After years of marching around amongst a sea of white men in grey suits, I was relieved. This felt like a place where I could settle in for the long term.
Of the vendors, most were peddling decent or ok teas with a few supreme quality standouts. Of special interest to me were some of the up-and-coming terroirs that were breaking out of their traditional roles as growers and processors of industrial grade tea. Purveyors showcasing African terroirs like Malawi (Satemwa Estate) and lesser-known Indian terroirs like Kumaon Hills West of Nepal (Young Mountain) exhibited nuanced and memorable flavors and character. Several Chinese tea companies showcased sheng-style tea with familiar but different enough character from regions abutting Yunnan such as Laos and Myanmar.
In the tisane category, I sampled products as diverse as coffee leaf (which had the gentle lift of a very mild green tea), amaranth (with its bright hibiscus liquor and brisk and bright tartness), and mangosteen (a bewilderingly mild herbaceous blend that included other herbs that were not disclosed).
As I suspected, the real excitement was the afterhours events, which I heard after the fact were mostly held in people's hotel rooms. These consisted of late night tea brewing sessions featuring extremely special teas shared amongst small groups of people.
The highlight of my adventure was the Tea Bloggers Meetup held at Tea and Whisk in Henderson, a burb outside of Las Vegas that stretched late into the evening. If you weren't tea drunk after that event, you weren't paying attention.
Returning home, I spent a few weeks digesting the expo before I wrote about it. Overall, I'm really happy that I decided to attend. More so, I am happy that I decided to pay attention to the call to join the tea space at a time when it is young, fresh, and vibrant. I'm looking forward to discovering the way I will use my talents and gifts to benefit the tea industry.