Every year at the World Tea Expo, the tea community comes together to learn about new products and hot topics in the industry, to network, and to revel in each other’s mutual enthusiasm. This enthusiasm was most palpable at the Awards Dinner, which bustled with hundreds of passionate tea enthusiasts and leading industry authorities, all gathered to celebrate each other’s successes. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was led by industry legend James Norwood Pratt, and his shout-out to the tea farmers and workers around the world was a much-endorsed sentiment.
Though it’s easy to get distracted and overwhelmed at a conference that has so much to offer, I was determined to stick to my agenda: I wanted to learn as much as I could about tea in relation to health and wellness. Having been working tirelessly to formulate and approve recipes for teALCHEMY’s Elixir Line, a line dedicated to natural health, I was thrilled about the “Tea Up for Health” addition to this year’s agenda. The sector promised an extensive educational program, which would explore key topics, latest research, consumer trends, and critical “how-to” info. It did not disappoint. Though there were many notable exhibitors and speakers, and I couldn’t possibly do them justice here, I’d like to quickly recap some highlights:
I kicked off the expo by attending Babette Donaldson’s highly anticipated presentation, “Selling Tea for Health: The Power of talking about Tea and Health”. Babette launched into a discussion about the many scientific benefits of tea, explaining complex information in a comprehensible way and citing extensive past and current research. Most thought-provoking, was how she explored the legalities of marketing the health benefits of tea, the roadblocks set by legislature, and the careful considerations involved should businesses choose to move forward with tea-health claims. She advised on everything from books to read, to career advancement moves, to product packaging. Her instructional questions and pointers resonated with me and I left her conference with strengthened resolve about the future of teALCHEMY’s Elixir Line. Needless to say, I picked up a copy of Babette’s “The Everything Healthy Tea Book: Discover the healing benefits of tea”. (Stay tuned for a review on the blog!)
Nigel Melican’s “Tea’s Dynamic Duo- Caffeine and Theanine” was another illuminating session, which discussed the properties of caffeine and theanine and their physiological effects. As a leading authority on tea, particularly tea production, Nigel offered valuable information about commercial tea processing and swiftly dispelled some common myths. What became abundantly clear throughout his talk was how misinformed both consumers and so-called tea experts are, and how important it was for all of us to make a conscious effort to stay well versed in our field.
Finally, it’s not an expo if you don’t indulge in the beautiful products and great resources on display. I couldn’t resist picking up some gourds and bambillas for our Yerba Mate Tea, which I’m so excited to offer to all of you on the website, soon! I also stocked up on important publications such as Fresh Cup, The Gourmet Retailer and Tea Time Magazine.
The coolest product I saw was the Alpha Dominche – a hand-crafted brewing machine designed for maximum precision and quality, and built to produce the “perfect” cup of tea or coffee with repeatable accuracy. The price tag was steep at $15,000, but a girl can dream.
Finally, another product that seems to be gaining a lot of traction lately is the Ilex Guayusa tree, an Amazonian super-plant of the holly genus. When the leaves are dried and brewed like a tea, they produce a stimulant effect similar to caffeine, without the negative side effects, and are packed with antioxidants, polyphenols and essential amino acids. Mother Nature, you’ve done it again.
Though the educational sessions and the exhibitors were exceptional, the dynamic among the attendees was what defined this experience for me. All of your generous advice, words of encouragement and general camaraderie was not unrecognized. Big thank you to everyone who took the time to chat with me and to impart his or her knowledge and expertise. I look forward to seeing you all again next year!